Fitness myths: Debunking the top 5

Raphael Calzadilla

"An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; A pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity."
- Sir Winston Churchill

With Spring on the way, I couldn’t think of a better time to provide some my favourite fitness myths. Hopefully, this will help you to avoid the fairy tale promises you might read about or see on TV concerning the diet or workout of the month - that can get you in shape in a matter of hours.

Here’s my top 5 for spring:

1. One should lose weight before they begin an exercise programme. MYTH.
There is no physiological reason to lose weight prior to beginning an exercise programme. Exercise is the best thing for your health and there is no time like the present to start. There are too many benefits of exercise to list here, but you’re doing every system and cell in your body a world of good by exercising. Any amount, starting with five minutes a day is beneficial.

Fat loss and muscle gain are only two of the many benefits that your body will experience from exercising.

Each day will get a little easier as you become more fit. There is no justification for waiting to begin - unless you have absolute orders from a doctor not to.

Whether you exercise with 20 percent body fat or 30 percent body fat, you’ll still be providing your body with the same benefits. Of course with less fat, you can move a little easier and it may be less strenuous on your heart, but you can be more fit and efficient at 30 percent body fat if you are exercising, than if you wait to get to 20 percent body fat without exercising.

The goal is to gain or preserve muscle and lose fat - not just lose weight (which implies both muscle and fat).

2. Exercise will help to sweat off body fat. MYTH
You actually don’t sweat off the fat itself. The fat cells never leave your body, but they do shrink in size and appearance. It takes energy to build up a sweat and the energy you generate to sweat comes primarily from fat. So exercising can actually help to shrink fat cells.

3. When working out with weights, very high reps (over 15) will help me to get defined muscles and very low reps (8-12) will make them bulky. MYTH
You’re not going to improve your strength or affect muscle definition if you’re choosing a weight that is too light. Muscles respond to overload. It’s the only way to get the cosmetic and strength benefit from weight training.

If the repetitions are too high (above 15) and the weight too light, you may achieve muscular endurance, but not any visual changes.

Muscular definition is the result of a calorie-reduced diet, overall body fat loss and weight training with challenging weights. Add cardiovascular exercise and you have the body you’ve been dreaming about - over time, of course.

The guidelines used for selecting a weight are to choose a resistance that allows you to do between 8 and 12 repetitions. If you can’t do 8, it’s too heavy. If you can do 12 repetitions, then increase your resistance by 5 percent. Keep in mind that all of your muscle groups are not equally as strong. For example, you may be able to use 7 pounds on a lateral raise, but need 15 pounds to be challenged during a squat.

4. Walking with hand or ankle weights will help to burn more calories and get me leaner faster. MYTH
I see a lot of people walking with small dumbbells or ankle weights. It’s absolutely ineffective.

You should never walk with hand or ankle weights. It places excessive stress on your joints and the risks are greater than the benefits. If you want to progress in your walking programme, walk faster, walk up a hill, do a combination of walking and jogging intervals, increase your distance or time, etc.

5. When one begins an exercise and diet programme, motivation will always be elevated and things will be easy. MYTH
Okay, so maybe this is more psychological in nature, but you need to know the truth. Exercise and diet do become easier as you get into the flow of things. You’ll also feel better and look better as you progress. However, there will be days when it’s not always so easy and days when motivation isn’t always high.

That’s when discipline and support become so important. When you use your own discipline along with a support system, consistency starts to take place. That consistency leads to progress and that progress takes you to your goal.

Is it easy? Not always, but as you progress you’ll have more easier days than harder ones.

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