Every year, hundreds of fitness-related studies come out of leading universities and research centers. It’s safe to say that, in 2018, we know more about exercise and its effects on the body than ever before. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of misinformation out there. Here are five exercise myths that continue to loom over the fitness world, despite having no scientific basis.
1. The Spot-Reduction Myth
First on the list is the spot reduction myth, or the inaccurate belief that body fat can be targeted for reduction in a specific region of the body. Believers of spot reduction will train their abs extra hard, thinking it’ll help them lose fat in their midsection. Sorry, ladies and gents, but body fat is used “systemically,” which means that it can only be lost (or gained) throughout the entire body. Unfortunately, this means we have little say about where we lose fat on our bodies.
2. The Frequent-Meals-Boost-Your-Metabolism Myth
While science has identified several health benefits that come with eating small, frequent meals (including improved blood sugars, energy, and gastrointestinal health), there is no evidence that suggests that small, frequent meals boot your metabolism. According to the latest research, metabolism, or the rate at which you use energy, is determined by your genetics, not by the size or frequency of your meals.
3. The Weightlifting-Makes-You-Less-Flexible Myth
Many in the weightlifting community continue to believe that long-term lifting gradually reduces your flexibility. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If done properly, weight training can improve the health of your skeletal muscles and lead to increased mobility. Effective weight training stimulates your central nervous system (or the communication system between your brain and your body), which can even lead to a greater range of bodily motion.
4. The Superiority-of-Slow-Cardio Myth
Coming in at number four is the slow-cardio-trumps-fast-cardio myth, or the falsely held view that longer, slower-paced cardio—like extended jogging or elliptical-machine use—burns more body fat than harder, short-interval-style training, like interval sprinting. While slow cardio offers a number of health benefits —including lower cholesterol and reduced risk of heart attack—it is not the best method for burning body fat.
5. The No-Pain-No-Gain Myth
One of the most potentially dangerous myths out there is the belief that pain shouldn’t keep you from working out. Adherents of this Schwarzeneggerian view believe that it’s only when you learn to embrace pain and push yourself to the breaking point, that you can expect to see results. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you experience joint pain, mental fatigue, exercise anxiety, lightheadedness, dizziness, or labored breathing when working out, it is ill-advised to keep working out and can even be counterproductive. The ultimate goal is to have a healthy mental and physical relationship with exercise. Better to keep it fun, take breaks, and be in it for the long haul.