Myths And Misunderstandings About Exercise


“I can eat whatever I want; I'll just burn it off later.”
“Sit-ups and crunches are the way to flat abs.”
“Eating lots of chocolate will help me lose weight.”

Okay, I made up that last one, but my point is that there are all kinds of misconceptions about exercise and fitness out there that we've heard quoted as 'fact'. Unlike the last one, they usually have a bit of truth to them, which makes them believable. Even so, it helps to know what works and what doesn't. In that vein, here are some of the most common misunderstandings about exercise and the truth behind them.

The calorie count on the cardio machines is accurate. While the 'calories burned' display can be a good motivator to keep going, chances are it's not totally accurate. The reason for this is that we all have different body compositions and different weights, two things most machines don't ask about. Even if they ask the questions, most of us don't know how much of our bodies is fat and how much is muscle. These things make a big difference when it comes to accurately calculating the number of calories you've actually burned. This doesn't mean that it should be ignored so much as taken with a grain of salt. In this vein-

As long as you exercise enough to 'burn it off', you can eat whatever you want. Exercise is great, but it doesn't 'undo' a bad diet. Not only may you not 'burn it off', foods have effects on your body other than just adding calories. There are nutrients, fats, get the idea. Burning calories won't unclog your arteries. Try to eat right too.

The number on the scale is the main way to track your progress. When I worked at a weight loss clinic, this was something I heard all the time. This isn't quite true. While we do want to get down to a healthy weight when going through a fitness program, there are more things to consider than just a lower number on the scale. How do your clothes fit? How do you feel? What does your body look like now? These are important questions because we don't just lose fat; we may also gain or tone muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, but it takes up less space. That is why you look and feel thinner, even if you haven't gone down in pounds.

Women shouldn't lift weights because it will make us 'bulk up'. Our muscles may get more toned, but the estrogen in our bodies makes it harder for women to actually build muscle. We definitely should tone our muscles because they help us burn more calories. Testosterone is what makes it possible for men to gain muscle, which is why some female bodybuilders take testosterone to help them bulk up. This can cause problems later down the line, so don't try it. Toning will do much more good. On the other hand-

'Six packs' and tones arms can be gained by doing 'spot exercises'. Even if the muscles do get toned, you won't be able to see it if there is still a layer of fat on top of them. Lose the fat first.

Hopefully now you have an idea about what exercise does and does not do for you. I'm writing this just as much for myself as for you, because I used to think all of these at one point. Now we just have to put the facts into action. Speaking of which...anyone want to go for a run with me?

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