12 Exercise Myths

exercise myths

Myth 1
Cardio exercise is better for weight loss than lifting weights.

The Truth
One of the oldest myths around cardio has always been seen as the first port of call for the portly. Cardiovascular exercise, such as running or swimming, does burn kilojoules during the exertion, but muscle is not built during these kinds of exercise. With weight training, you are increasing your muscle mass, meaning your metabolism speeds up; therefore you burn more kilojoules every day during your normal activities.

Another reason to lift weights:
If you do cardio without weight training, you will lose muscle mass as well as fat.  Researchers from Ball State University, in the US, put overweight men on a 6270kJ-a-day diet and divided them into three groups – one that did not exercise, another that performed aerobic exercise three days a week.  The results?  Each group lost nearly the same amount of weight – about nine kilograms.  However, the weightlifters shed 2.3kg more fat than those who did not pump iron.  Why? Because their weight loss was almost pure fat, while the other two groups lost just seven kilograms of lard and one-and-a-half kilograms of lean body mass, aka muscle.  The percentages of this weight loss: diet only – 69 percent fat mass; diet plus aerobic exercise – 78 percent fat mass; and diet, aerobic exercise plus weight training – 97 percent fat mass.

The Solution
Use both weight training and cardio in your belly-off program.  And in the gym, aim to do compound exercises such as squats, push-ups, lunges and dead lifts to work all the major muscle groups.  Start off slowly, and be sure to allow for enough rest time between your gym days.

Myth 2
If you exercise regularly, you can eat what you want.

The Truth
This, unfortunately, is a sad misconception.  No matter what you do during the day, you still need to make sure you are not eating too much for the activity you are participating in.  Dr John Jakicic, a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh, says: “Without a change in eating behaviour, exercise alone has a minimal impact on weight loss.” Dr Kelly Shaw, from the Department of Health and Human Services of Australia, came to a similar conclusion when she reviewed weight-loss trials and found that modifying your diet has as a greater impact on weight loss than just exercise.  The bottom line? Your eating habits play a huge role in losing weight, and exercise will help you to keep the weight off.  Combine them for the best results.

The Solution
Aim to eat five or six small meals a day instead of three large ones.  Match up your eating habits to the exercise you participate in.

Myth 3
You can spot-reduce fat, meaning you can target certain areas of your body.

The Truth
People believe that if you do 500 sit-ups daily, you will get a six-pack. Unfortunately, it does not work like that.  When you lose weight, it occurs all over your body.  Looking to lose the love handles? Even though there are many exercises that target the muscles under your love handles, “building up that area will only push the fat out further and make your middle look even wider,” says Dr David Pearson, a professor of exercise physiology. So avoid exercises like side bends and side crunches. Instead, concentrate on losing overall body fat: as the extra kilos melt away, so will your love handles.

The Solution
Do some rowing. You burn up to 50 percent more fat as fuel when you exercise on a rowing machine rather than a stationary bike. Add some weight training and watch what you eat.

Myth 4
The more reps of lighter weights you do, the more “toned” you will get.

The Truth
Doing fewer reps of heavier weights increases strength, and activates “fast-twitch” muscle fibers. Using lightweightwill not increase muscle mass, but it will help you to lose weight if you are using it as part of a high-intensity cardiovascular routine. It is a common sight in the gym, Lycra-clad women and men with coloured dumbbells who do 50 reps of each exercise to tone. The word “toned” is misleading, however, as if you want your muscles to show, you need to lose the fat layer. Doing 50 reps is not going to do that, as only an increase in muscle mass and your metabolism, coupled with the right eating plan, will rid you of your extra blubber. High-rep phases (never more than 15) increase muscle mass, but the weights need to be heavy enough to cause muscle fatigue and failure.

The Solution
Aim to do between eight and 12 reps in the exercises that you do. Once you have built enough of a strength foundation, you can start decreasing your reps, and increasing the weight loads. Be careful, and use a spotter if you are going heavy.

Myth 5
Carbs are evil; you should avoid them.

Carbohydrates have become public enemy number one. However,they are not the diet-killers they are made out to be. First advantage of eating carbs? They will help you to build muscle. Carbs are our number one source of energy, and you need energy during your training sessions. Carbs will help with protein synthesis, the process that builds your muscle. Dr John Ivy, co-author of Nutrient Timing, explains that when you consume your protein, you need to have the right balance of carbohydrates. Want another reason to eat carbs? New research from Children’s Hospital and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, both in Boston, suggests that good fats and high-fiber carbohydrates can keep your metabolism from slowing down. The low-glycaemic group in the study felt less hungry and had lower levels of heart-threatening triglycerides and C-reactive protein, and inflammatory compound associated with heart attack risk. “The idea with low-glycaemic eating is that blood sugar stays lower, you feel full faster and the body doesn’t seem to react to the diet with as much stress”, says researcher Dr David Ludwig, director of the obesity programme at Children’s Hospital.

Stick to low-GI carbs and wholegrain products, and eat more fruit, legumes and vegetables. After your workout, consume a post-workout shake of three parts carbohydrates and one part protein. “Eat a meal several hours later, and then reverse that ration in your snack after another few hours”, says Ivy. “This will keep protein synthesis going by maintaining high amino acid concentration in the blood.” Use Ivy’s balance of carbs and protein to maximize your muscle growth when weight training.

Myth 6
Running is bad for your knees.

The good news: research from the US’s Mayo Clinic has shown that traumatic knee injuries like cruciate-ligament tears and degenerative knee problems like osteoarthritis tend to strike the knees of everyday runners at rates no higher than those of everyone else. The bad news? According to a two-year study of more than 2 000 runners completed in 2002 by the University of British Columbia, most running injuries treated at the centre (42 percent) occurred at the knee. So how does this happen? There tends to be three causes of injury to the knee, “says Dr Michael Stuart, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee surgery and sports medicine at the Mayo Clinic, “those stemming from acute trauma and overuse, and those, which are degenerative in nature”.  The key cause is overuse. If you don’t have any knee problems as a result of genetics or schoolchild sport, you can run pain-free as long as you start your running regime slowly, and by making sure, you have adequate rest between the tarmac attacks.  If you do have knee problems, do some rehab. This should include some gym work to strengthen the muscles used in running, namely your quadriceps and hamstrings.  This will help to reduce the jarring effect the hard surfaces have on your knee structure. Check the support that your running shoes are providing.  Reduce the distance and frequency of your runs until your knee has become adjusted to your running programme.

Run fewer kilometers, increase your leg muscles’ strength and train your hips to be more flexible.

Myth 7
Food eaten after 8o’clock turns into fat.

“Eating late at night won’t make you fat unless you go over your kilojoule load for that day,” says dietitian Erica Blacksburg. Nighttime is when your body does muscle repair growth, so you need an adequate supply of protein. Late night protein smoothies are perfect nutritional nightcaps, ensuring your body grows and repairs while you dream of beach holidays. Just don’t overdo your late-night muscle meals. “We associate late-night eating with weight gain because we usually consume more kilojoules at night” says Julie Bender, a dietician with Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas. “We do this because we usually deprive our bodies of adequate kilojoules the first half of the day” she explains. Start off your day with a substantial breakfast, and eat small meals spread out through the day to stop from overindulging at night.

Start your day with a proper breakfast, and eat smaller meals five to six times a day. Reduce your dinner meal size, and aim to have your dinners earlier. Have a protein shake just before you go to sleep to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to build and repair muscle.

Myth 8
You need to devote lots of time to training.

A University of Pittsburgh study showed that regular 30-minute workouts may be just as effective as hour-long ones. In a study of 114 men and woman, those who were given a goal of 300 minutes of moderate exercise a week – 60 minutes, five times a week – lost 1.8kg in a year. Surprisingly, shorter workouts worked just as well: those who did a half hour, five times a week, lost 1.5kg. The more time you put into training , the quicker you will lose the kilograms and put on muscle. Fact. However, the more time you spend in the gym, the easier it is to become demotivated, and to get tired of the repetition, especially if you are just starting out. “If you’re hitting the gym only twice a week, it should give you an extra layer of motivation to make those days truly count,” says Mike Mejia, author of The Better Body Blueprint. Thankfully, you can still get results from shorter workouts, even if they are not as spectacular as the results gained from the “full-time” gym-goers.

Aim for quality rather than quantity. Do two sessions a week, one on the weekend, and another near the middle of the week. Mejia recommends doing a full-body routine on both days to make the most of your time. Couple it with some cardio work that you enjoy, whether it’s touch rugby or salsa dancing. That way, you will stay more motivated. Another bonus? With less time spent in the gym, you have more time to recover between sessions.

Myth 9
The more fit you are, the less you sweat.

Not only is this untrue, it’s the complete opposite of the truth. As you become fitter and your cardiovascular system becomes more efficient, you sweat more as your body tries to dissipate the heat and help you avoid heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, says Jay Dawes, instructor of kinesiology and health studies at the University of Central Oklahoma. “You’ll notice that as you get fitter, the sweat will be more evenly distributed over your body. So don’t kid yourself – you are sweat-free only because you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough.”

When you’re doing gym work, do combined sets of exercises without a rest between to get your heart rate going. For cardio, try to keep yourself within the 70 percent to 90 percent range of exertion, based on your heart rate. Even better, integrate some interval training into your programme. Interval training works on the system of pushing your body to the highest intensity possible for a short period of time, and then coupling this with a period of lower intensity training. This coupling is repeated, and the intensity and duration of the interval periods increase as you become fitter. The real benefits of this training come from your body being forced to work harder with the changes in pace and timing.

Myth 10
All slim people are healthy.

Professor John Bell, who heads the molecular imaging group of the UK’s Medical Research Council in London, says “It’s not about looking thin, it’s about being healthy. You can look healthy, but have a lot of fat internally, which can have a detrimental effect on your health.” His conclusion? Fat that’s skin-deep won’t kill you, it’s the hidden fat that will.

Exercise. And lots of it. The only way to blast internal fat is to ramp your metabolism to burn off those hidden layers. Start with a gym routine, and add both cardio and a sound eating plan.

Myth 11
If you stop working out, muscle turns to fat.

Just like you can’t turn water into wine, muscle can’t be turned into fat. The facts? When you stop working out, you stop burning as many kilojoules as you did when throwing dumbbells around. It’s difficult to adjust eating habits, and so your start putting on more fat from all the extra food you are eating. And the really bad news? Only 72 hours after your last workout, you start losing muscle, incredibly slowly, but its happening. This means your metabolism slows as you lose muscle mass, and your body does not burn fat as efficiently as before. You start losing the war against fat on two fronts.

Get back into the gym, even if you only do half-hour sessions, three times a week. You don’t need to be in the gym for long periods of time to see results.

Myth 12
Muscle is only built during exercise time.

It’s outside of the gym where the muscle repair and growth actually occurs. This growth occurs throughout the day, and is influenced by what you eat, and how much sleep you get. Dr Marcus Elliot, a sports conditioning specialist found that eating the right stuff between weight-lifting sessions can make a 15 to 25 percent difference in how much muscle you put on and how much fat you lose. So , choose your pre-workout meals carefully. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that the body’s production of growth hormone increases when you eat a combination of carbohydrates and protein two hours before a workout and immediately after it. And lastly, make sure you are getting enough rest in between sessions. When you lift weights, you tear myofibrils, the tiny sinews tissue that makes up the muscles. It takes up to 48 hours for muscles to repair themselves. It’s during that period that you actually become stronger.

Get at least eight hours sleep, and have one day’s rest between muscle group workout days.

If you do not have an exercise programme yet:

  • join a gym and get active
  • join the gym and get a personal instructor
  • join run walk for life
  • do your own thing: walking, cycling, running, skipping, water aerobics, etc.

Are you active yet and ready to move into the optimal health zone?

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