Whether you’ve said them or heard them, don’t ever be fooled again by these common fitness fallacies:
- No pain, no gain. It rhymes nicely, but this pervasive myth can land you on the injured list faster than you can say Achilles tendonitis. Pain is a signal that you’re pushing too hard, too fast, or too far. Effective exercise is done at a level high enough to elicit benefits, but below the pain threshold. Working at a moderate-to-vigorous level for long enough will induce a feeling of fatigue and/or discomfort, but not pain.
- I work out a lot, so I can eat anything. If your goal is good health and weight management, guess again. Let’s say you burn 450 calories on a 45-minute bike workout. You can out-eat those calories in a flash with a candy bar or a plate of nachos. Eating less-nutritious foods also crowds out the more-nutritious foods (like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean sources of protein) you need for optimal well-being and performance. But obsessing over calories consumed vs. calories burned isn’t healthy either, so I recommend the following:
- Tune in to your senses of hunger and fullness; honor these signals by eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re comfortably full.
- Choose healthful foods most of the time, but work modest treats into your meal plan.
- Go easy on the sweets; recent research suggests sugar has a direct effect on heart disease risk factors.
- Doing hundreds of crunches will melt my spare tire. Every time I hear someone brag about doing 200 crunches, I cringe; it’s usually only a matter of time before they experience back pain — and that’s a real shame. Because neither trimming the waistline nor building core stability requires abdominal super-sets. Losing abdominal fat requires lifestyle changes that support weight loss:
- Regular cardiovascular exercise. Cardio torches calories; for weight loss, burning 1000-2000 calories/week via exercise is recommended. Including a couple of high intensity interval workouts each week can be especially helpful.
- Dietary changes. Moving to a whole-foods, less processed diet helps keep calorie intake under control. And people who eat more whole grains and fewer refined grains have 10% less belly fat than those eating mostly refined grains.
- I’ll bulk up if I lift weights. I’ve heard many female clients, patients, friends, and family cite this myth as a reason why they’re not strength training. It breaks my heart — because strength training just twice a week does everyone, of any age, a world of good in terms of overall strength, bone health, posture, weight control, and much more. The truth is that body builders bulk up because they spend hours training every day; this is far beyond what strength training involves for health and fitness. Work with a certified fitness professional to get the results you want.
Interested in learning more? Check out these resources:
Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 5th edition by Nancy Clark, MS, RD
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD
Energize Your Life With Strength Training — American Council on Exercise
Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports.