10 Common Fitness Myths and why They are False

10 Common Fitness Myths and why They are False

There’s a lot of Fitness Myths out there. Some more convincing than others.  Unfortunately, a lot of people are reluctant to hire a fitness trainer to facilitate their training and opt to adopt advice from a gym buddy and accept it as the foundation for their training. This can have devastating results.

I’ve put together a list of 10 of the most common fitness myths I’ve heard from people I’ve consulted with throughout the years. These people are so convinced about what they accept as the truth that when I try to enlighten them with the accurate information, which is often conflicting to what they thought was right, they are reluctant to accept it. I honestly don’t blame them, I know I use to believe the third one on this list.

Muscles grow while you exercise

This is not true. Muscles actually develop while you rest. Most significantly during sleep.

During exercise, you actually break down muscles. You may have noticed that your muscles become engorged with blood during exercise and temporarily become bigger.  This is known as Transient hypertrophy: which is an increase in blood flow to the muscles being used. It is also commonly referred to as “Muscle Pump” or being “Pumped up” and it is, as mentioned, temporal.

Once the muscle is broken down you need to get proper nutrition, water and rest to allow the muscle to build back up.  Your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands or myofibrils. This process is known as Hypertrophy (increased muscle size) and it happens during the days that follow your workout. This is why resting is so important.

You can spot reduce fat

When someone tells you that you can reduce fat only around your belly area and retain it around the butt area, that someone is deceiving you. Physiologically this is not possible.

You cannot spot reduce fat in any area. The reason for this is because when the body resorts to burning fat stores, it doesn’t use the stores nearest to the muscle being flexed [1]. Instead, fat is burned across your body at different rates depending on your sex and genetics.

To burn fat anywhere in your body you need to focus on burning overall body fat. High-intensity interval training is one of the best means to achieve that.

The bigger the muscles the stronger they are

The was a time when I thought this was true. Until I got it wrong in a test.

Turns out you can train your muscles to be big and they don’t necessarily have to be strong. The appearance or visual size of a muscle is not an accurate measure of how strong that muscle is. Bodybuilders train with specific goals in mind, to gain muscle mass.  Sometimes that can be achieved without the muscles being as strong as those of Olympic heavyweight lifters. Who train with a different goal in mind, to get stronger muscles! When it comes to muscle definition and size, bigger does not always mean stronger. Remember that.

The more you sweat the more fat you burn

Sweating can be a good indicator that you are exercising at high intensity but unfortunately fat does not evaporate or melt away.

Sweating does not burn fat, it helps regulate your body temperature [2]. During exercise, sweating does this by attempting to keep you cool.

Most importantly, it might be worthwhile to know that sweat is made up of a combination of water, ammonia, urea, salts, and sugar. Not melted fat!

No pain no gain

Of all the common fitness myths I have heard, this is by far the most persistent. The benefits of exercise or gains and muscle soreness are not always in correlation.

Sore muscles are often than not a result of poor training. You can, as a matter of fact, have a full beneficial workout and feel no muscle soreness during the days that follow.

Its ok to feel a bit of delayed onset muscle soreness during the days that follow your workout but not feeling “the burn”  doesn’t mean your workout was not intense enough. It simply means your energy expenditure was just right [3].

You can convert fat into muscles

Wouldnt that be great. For some reason, some people assume that they do not have to gain muscle mass to­­— well, have muscle mass. They presume that they simply need to convert that excess fat into muscles. Therefore they do not have to do as much work. Although very optimistic, this is unfortunately not possible.

There is an important distinction between fat tissue and muscle tissue that makes this impossible. Muscles cells contain protein filaments of actin and myosin that slide past one other, producing a contraction that changes both length and the shape of the cell. You can learn more about how muscles function here. Fat, on the other hand, is excess energy that is converted and stored as fat by insulin. Put simply, muscle and fat are different tissue. One cannot be converted into the other.

People who stay longer in the gym get better results

Not necessarily. In fact, there is a danger in staying in the gym for an extended time. It leads to overtraining and muscle fatigue.

Keep in mind that you use energy stored in the muscle to exercise and once that store of energy is depleted, the muscle is overused. A training session of 30 to 45 minutes with an hour tops is usually enough to maintain a healthy fit body.

A high BMI is a result of being overweight

No, it is not. I believe you know Mike Tyson right, the heavyweight boxer? Tyson was 180 cm tall and weighed 100 kg when he was in top 5 physical conditions. This gives him a BMI of 31 kg/m2, go ahead and check. Now if want to suggest he was obese, go ahead, I won’t join you [4].

The weight scale can lie and it often does. To be healthy, it is more important to look at your body composition than the scale or height and weight charts. Body composition is the relationship between lean body tissue and fat mass. Read more about fitness assessments.

Lifting weights are not for women

There is a common misconception that women should not lift weights. Believe it or not. Some gyms even have separate “Female sections” in the gym without weights which enforces this stereotype.

The “women should not lift weights” stereotype inherits from the belief that if females lifted like males then they would look too masculine or transform into the men physiology. Although this is partly dependent on one’s definition of “too masculine”, the physiological makeup of males and females is different and it affects how each sex gains muscles, where they gain the most muscles and how much of those muscles they can gain.

If that is not convincing enough, remember that one can always limit the amount of muscle definition they desire by manipulating the frequency and intensity of their exercise routine to meet a specific goal.  The fact of the matter is that as long as you can lift a weight or execute an exercise correctly, then you are capable and therefore you should.

You need supplements to gain muscle mass

Although supplements are beneficial to improving fitness and wellbeing, they are not an absolute necessity. As much as you can get those much-needed nutrients from supplements you can also get them from food.  Supplements are just that, they “supplement” your diet. You need to eat food, good food and plenty.

That’s it, the 10 Common Fitness Myths and why They are False. How many of these myths did you think where true?  Before you adopt advice from your gym buddy, consider researching it first, or better yet, hire an expert on fitness to facilitate their training.

It is very easy to fall victim to the wrong advice since these are easily perpetuated and are sometimes very convincing. Following the wrong advice can delay your goals and cause frustration or even worse, lead to injury. So be cautious!

I used to believe big muscles were strong muscles, which is not true. What about you, what myths did you believe and how were they busted. Tell us about them in the comment section below. Don’t forget to share this article if you’ve found it helpful. Until next time, keep moving.

Reference list
  1. Health Status. Why Spot Reducing Fat Is Impossible. Status Health website. [Online] November 02, 17.
  2. https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/body-fat-percentage-calculation/why-spot-reducing-fat-is-impossible/.
  3. ANDREA, CESPEDES. Does Sweat Burn Fat? livestrong.com. [Online] July 18, 2017. https://www.livestrong.com/article/317664-sweat-burn-fat/.
  4. Nordin, Pauline. 25 More Fitness Myths Crushed By Pauline Nordin! [Online] March 08, 2015. https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/25-more-fitness-myths-crushed-by-pauline-nordin.html.
  5. Vale, Jon. Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson and Boxing’s Top 25 Heavyweight Champs of All Time.http://bleacherreport.com. [Online] August 03, 2011. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/780488-muhammed-ali-mike-tyson-and-boxings-top-25-heavyweight-champs-of-all-time.

Thando W. Dlamini, BA

Sport Development and Exercise Science Practitioner

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