10 Common Myths About Exercise


There’s no dearth of ‘expert’ advice on fitness and exercise out there. From fitness bloggers to celebrities to that friend that recently joined a gym and can’t stop talking about it, almost everyone seems to know everything about how to work out and achieve the best results. 

Of course, not all of that information is accurate, or even scientific. Some of the most commonly-held beliefs about exercise are nothing more than myths that keep getting repeated over and over and start sounding true, even when they have no basis in science.  

10. Stretch Before Working Out

You don’t have to exercise to know about this one. Quite a few people – including qualified trainers – believe that stretching before working out has a slew of benefits. It helps prepare the body before a physically-intense activity, boosts your performance and overall improves your fitness gains. 

Mounting research, however, is proving that the belief has no basis in reality. According to multiple studies, stretching before exercise actually impedes athletic performance in many ways. We believe that stretching makes muscles less prone to injury, though when scientists compared rates of soreness among people that stretched before exercise and the ones that didn’t, they didn’t find much of a difference at all. In fact, stretching a cold, tight muscle may just increase your chances of injury during a workout. 

9. Exercise Makes You Hungry

Quite a few nutritionists and other weight loss experts claim that working out increases your appetite, which may make you eat more than you usually would and lead to weight gain, undoing any weight you lost during the workout. The idea that eating a lot can somehow reverse the positive effects of exercise is widespread and repeated often, even if it’s scientifically inaccurate.

Research proves that any weight you lose during exercise is independent of your diet. Of course, that doesn’t mean that diet doesn’t have a role to play, but the idea that you can gain the weight you lost during exercise just by eating a lot is just false. Just look at professional athletes, whose diets usually involve copious amounts of food, while still being some of the fittest people around.

8. Sports Drinks Are Good For You

The idea that you’ve to stay hydrated – even against your will – during a workout isn’t that old. In the ’70s, athletes were told to avoid any fluid before a performance, as all that excess load may slow them down. Now, it’s all about the fluids, and just water won’t do. The market is full of popular sports drinks that promise to hydrate you better than water, even increase your performance. 

As you can guess, that is largely just a way to sell more sports drinks. Their fundamental claim is that the body’s natural thirst mechanism isn’t good enough to tell you when or what to drink to stay properly hydrated. According to studies, though, drinking water exactly when your body wants it maximizes performance and is actually the most optimal way to get hydrated. 

Moreover, sports drinks are full of sugar and have few proven benefits to health. The only reason we believe they work is clever marketing. 

7. Yoga Is Easier On The Body

Yoga is usually considered to be a less intensive, easier form of exercise than other, more mainstream fitness routines. ‘Yoga injuries’ doesn’t ring the same bells as serious injuries from, say, an intense core-building session. It’s not uncommon for trainers and therapists to recommend it as a safer, lighter alternative to regular exercise.

There is, however, no evidence to support the notion that yoga is an easier form of other workout routines. If anything, one study has found that yoga can cause injury at the same rate as other sports injuries. It can even make existing pain worse, as about 21% of all injuries in the same study were made worse by doing yoga, making it as intense and serious as most other popular forms of exercise. 

6. Running On A Treadmill Is The Same As Running Outside

Running is one of the easiest workouts one can do to maintain fitness, though there are still many different schools of thought on what’s the best way to do it. While some maintain that nothing can beat the thrill of running outside, the idea that a good treadmill can perfectly replace that – even improve on it – has gained quite a bit of ground in the past few years.

So, which one is actually better? While treadmills do provide an efficient, controlled environment to run and achieve fitness goals, they’re no comparison to running outside. It’s good for the body’s posture and gait to tackle the natural bumps and uneven ground found outside, compared to the relatively monotonous surface of a treadmill. Running on a treadmill may also make you adjust and change your natural stride over time.

5. Morning Is The Best Time For Exercise

Exercising is traditionally built into our schedule as a morning activity. While you’d find people working out in the gym at almost all hours of the day, morning – or immediately after waking up, whenever that is – is traditionally considered to be the most optimum time, and most people do the bulk of their daily workouts at that time.

Undoubtedly, working out in the morning has its benefits. It helps you maintain and stick to a daily routine much better than other times, as well as keeps your mood up during the rest of the day, among other things. However, there are many downsides to working out in the morning, too, along with an equal number of benefits to doing it in the afternoon and evening.

In reality, there’s really no perfect time to work out, and forcefully choosing a time that may not work for you may actually hamper your overall fitness. Experts maintain that sticking to whichever time you pick for exercise is much more important than the time itself. 

4. Exercise On An Empty Stomach

Exercising on an empty stomach forms the basis for many weight loss routines and other weight loss guides online. It’s widely believed, as it makes common sense. If the body has no carbohydrates to burn, it’ll obviously turn to its fat stores, helping you lose weight faster.

Except, scientific studies have proven multiple times that there’s no relationship between how much you eat before a workout and weight loss. All fasting does is make you weaker and hungry during a workout, as well as feeds into the other widespread-but-inaccurate notion that there’s some perfect time to work out in the day – before eating. Of course, don’t do the really intense parts of the routine after eating a particularly heavy meal, though it’s perfectly fine to workout after eating, too.

3. Detox Diets Help You Lose Weight

The past few years have seen a massive rise in the popularity of detox diets. They come in many forms, though at its most basic, a detox diet usually involves replacing your regular food with healthier, lower-calorie alternatives, along with eliminating everything else that could be harmful. There’s usually a fasting element to it, too, as they’re primarily aimed at people looking to lose weight

Despite their popularity, detox diets have never been proven to work for weight loss. While people have lost weight after detox diets in some controlled studies, that turned out to be due to loss of fluid and carbohydrate stores rather than fat. All of them eventually ended up gaining all of their weight as soon as they were off their cleanse.

Detox diets may have some other benefits, as quite a few people have reported feeling better after completing one. That may just be due to eliminating harmful substances like alcohol from their diet more than anything else, which is a good piece of health advice to follow in general. 

2. Spot Reduction

Spot reduction refers to any exercise that aims to reduce body fat in a targetted part of the body. Crunches are seen as a popular method of reducing fat in the belly area. You’d even find people working their triceps to trim fat from the back of their arms. The idea that it’s possible to specifically target a body part for weight loss is quite popular, even if no studies have ever proven that it works.

Biologically, it’s impossible to target specific regions of the body to burn fat from, as the fatty acids and glycerol that burn during a workout can be from anywhere in the body, not just the one you’re working out right now. Apart from an inaccurate notion of how exercise and weight loss work, this myth also gives you the false idea that you just need to exercise one part of the body and ignore the rest to achieve your goals.  

1. No Pain, No Gain

Almost all of us have heard of the ‘no pain, no gain’ adage, usually used by trainers to motivate people to push harder. It refers to the widely held belief that in order to achieve your fitness goals, it’s necessary to feel some amount of pain or soreness after. We also think that certain workouts are better than others just because they cause more pain, which must mean that they’re better.

Now, if you stay at home and don’t work out too often, it’s completely natural to feel a bit of soreness in your muscles after working out, though only for the first few days. That type of pain actually strengthens the muscles, as it’s a part of the body’s natural response to a relatively new, unusual type of exertion. That, however, in no way means that you should look for more and more painful exercise routines to achieve goals faster.

While some pain is ok and even natural, exercise shouldn’t regularly be a painful affair. Pain is the body’s way of warning you that something’s not right, and it’s the same for exercise as, say, an open wound. Ignoring this warning could make whatever’s causing it worse, potentially leading to other longer-term issues.

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