Unicorns, Fairies....and Fitness? Top 10 Fitness Myths


I love lists. Call me anal (you're anal) but there's something about the order and brevity that appeals to me. I especially love the kind where an expert is called upon to put everything I need to know about a certain topic into a nice, easy-to-follow format instead of having to go out and research it all by myself. And if it happens to relate to a subject that has haunted interested me for years, all the better. So when I saw this list of the Top 10 Fitness Myths, I put aside my macaroni and cheese omelet and began to read.

1) Crunches will burn fat off your abs. First things first: addressing the fat that's covering those abs through diet and exercise has to come before the crunches. In essence, make sure your underwear isn't on over your clothes.

2) There is an easy way to lose weight. There are some "truisms" in life that you know right away are a load of b.s. - "It's not about the money", "This will only hurt a little", and "On time and under budget" - and this is just another one of them. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that's been built upon making it look easier than it really is. Hard work and perseverance are still the answer. If it was easy, I would've found and exploited it by now and Bill Gates and Oprah would be working for me.

3) If you don't have time to get in the government's recommended 30-90 minutes a day, you shouldn't bother. Smaller sessions totaling up to your overall daily quota are still beneficial. (My guess is they're referring to exercise here and not the wait time for your swine flu shot that hasn't even been shipped to your part of the country yet.)

4) Weightlifting makes women bulky. Not unless you're using steroids and/or are in the New York Yankees line-up - which I realize is redundant. (And why, yes, I am a sore loser Red Sox fan - no redundancy intended.)

5) You aren't working hard enough if you aren't dripping in sweat. I assume that they're referring to my own sweat here and not the second-hand sweat spraying off that uber-runner guy on the treadmill next to me. Workout intensity, temperature and a variety of other factors determine how much you sweat.

6) Workouts should hurt. Dentists, dating, mammograms and parenting - yes. Workouts - no. A little soreness a day or two later is common but anything beyond that really isn't and is a sign of something gone wrong.

7) If you stop exercising, your muscles will turn to fat. Your muscles will probably get smaller and/or atrophy but your fat will get fatter all on its own if you stop working out. Fat and muscle tissue are different and seem inversely related; like they take turns being the dominant one - a little bit like the Clintons.

8) As you age, you will lose muscle and gain fat. Part of this might be true, actually, because of your declining metabolism, in which case resistance training can help retain lean muscle - which is not to be confused with resisting change; another more insidious sign of aging (Also see: "Oldsmobile cravings" and "Dinner for two" oops - sorry, that should be "Dinner AT two").

9) Workouts must be intense to burn fat. Surgery is intense. So are IRS audits and air traffic controllers. That philosophy major your dated in college was too. Workouts don't have to be. They can be just as effective at burning fat at lower intensities but you have to do them longer. Plus, you lower the burn-out factor by making them easier to withstand.

10) Stretching isn't important because it won't make you thinner. Stretching is like adding oil to your car's engine - just try driving without it and then you'll appreciate its importance. Missing workouts because of injuries caused from not stretching properly will add to your bottom's line.

So what about it - have you fallen for any of these myths or can you think of any others that could have made the list?


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