At a time when information is easily accessible and everyone around you seems to have their own opinions about the many benefits of exercise, it is only natural that you would hear a lot of confusing facts from different people about some aspects related to exercise.
So what’s the truth? Do you burn more calories on an empty stomach? Do crunches give you great abs?
To set the record straight, here is a detailed explanation that will ensure you know the difference between the myths and facts concerning fitness and exercise:
Myth #1: No pain, no gain
If there's anything that makes people not want to exercise, it's the most common myth of all: "No pain, no gain". Because according to this, if you're not hurting or feeling pain, then you are either not exercising correctly or enough. This is further compounded by the fact that most people don't want to be in pain!
In reality, the truth is just the opposite. According to professional trainers, if you feel the first twinge of pain, you should stop your workout. Exercise that is done correctly is never painful. An intense workout may create some discomfort, but it does not go to the point where you are in actual pain. Exercise should be enjoyable; otherwise, you are likely to get bored or disillusioned with your workout schedule and stop it entirely.
Myth #2: Exercising on an empty stomach burns more calories
Contrary to this myth, exercising on an empty stomach may actually make you feel ill and probably cause you to stop your workout. This means that you won't be burning more calories by starting out with an empty stomach. The calories burnt are the same in both cases but the output is different and may cause extra burning due to the performance. And remember that your body needs energy to run, so when you exercise on an empty stomach, your body has to find fuel somewhere else. While it is both burning energy and searching for energy, your body can get overwhelmed during the exercise routine, resulting in dizziness and in extreme situations, even fainting.
The wise thing to do is to have a small snack about ten or fifteen minutes before working out. Carbohydrates are the best source of energy, so eat a banana or a small slice of toast. And because you'll be feeling better, you'll enjoy your workout, be able to finish your entire routine, and burn more calories compared to "running on empty".
Myth #3: Caffeine causes dehydration during endurance sports
According to recent scientific evidence caffeine is not a significant dehydrating agent during exercise and does not cause fluid-electrolyte imbalances that would have a negative effect on your health or performance.
In fact, a scientific review of a number of studies has shown that beverages containing caffeine cause little difference in urine volume. Conversely, it may boost your performance and reduce fatigue in the last moments of your workout. In order to keep yourself sufficiently hydrated, you should drink plenty of water.
Myth #4: Weight training builds bulk in women
It is common knowledge that many women do not want bulky muscles. And the myth that weight training makes women look like professional bodybuilders scares thousands away from this wonderful form of exercise. But the truth is that there is no scientific proof supporting the argument that women get bulky from weight lifting. This is because, physiologically, men have a higher percentage of muscle throughout the body and tend to increase bulk with weight lifting.
Women, on the other hand, have more fat throughout the body and less muscle. Weight training produces stronger and more toned muscles, can help burn body fat and deter osteoporosis and other health conditions.
Most importantly, you should know that “weights” will not give you big muscles, because your hormones (estrogen) are different from a man’s (testosterone). Only women who participate in body building competitions have big muscles because they take various supplements in addition to male hormones. This is why, no matter how much you lift weights you’ll not end up looking like that.
Myth #5: Crunches will flatten your stomach
Popular culture leads us to think that doing hundreds of crunches will get rid of a "jelly belly". However, the problem is usually that weak abs are due to excess fat, not weak muscles. Crunches will strengthen your abdominal muscles but won’t get rid of the layer of fat covering your muscles. And even with an intense crunching routine, you might sometimes be dismayed to see your belly get bigger, because your muscles are gaining strength underneath the fat layer.
The best strategy for firming abs is simple: burn the fat and strengthen your abdominal muscles at the same time. You can do this by walking briskly, running, biking, etc – a two-pronged approach that will give you the six-pack abs you want.
Myth # 6: Free weights are much more effective than machines
Both are effective ways of exercising! The one that’s more beneficial basically depends on your level of experience and convenience – if you are working out at home or the gym.
If you’re new to exercising, machines are your best bet, because they’re easier to use. You can easily learn how to exercise correctly and perform the moves with the appropriate range of motion. It's also much simpler to move a pin on a machine than it is to move dumbbells, or free weights. An added advantage of machines is that they can work out all the major muscle groups in about 20 to 30 minutes.
If you’re an experienced exerciser, free weights will keep you motivated to work out. Plus it doesn't require going to a gym! With a few dumbbells, a barbell and plates, you can complete an effective strength training workout right at home.
Myth #7: If there’s no weight loss, there’s no point exercising
Although the desire to lose weight is what gets most people off the couch and into their walking shoes, the true motivation should come from a deeper desire. Especially since exercise is known to have lots of advantages on your health and well-being:
- Regular exercise improves the ability of insulin to enter cells, so it lowers the risk of diabetes
- It also lowers the risk of heart disease, triglycerides, and raises HDL ‘good’ cholesterol
- In several studies, exercise improved sleep at night
- The most important benefit of exercise is feeling good both inside and out, since it helps relieve both depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that a single 30-minute exercise session will improve your mood and feelings of well-being, making it excellent for relieving stress.
In a nutshell, exercise gives you a healthy weight and a healthy body and mind!
Note: If you have questions on other myths about exercising or fitness, ask a fitness trainer at your local gym or your doctor. Initially, it may be hard to separate fiction and fact, but as you become more experienced with your fitness training, knowing the difference will only get easier with time.