I often tell myself that if there is just one way to drink my way to looking good and staying healthy I’ll do it in a heartbeat! Oh, why is it so hard to stay physically fit and healthy?
If you’ve experienced going to the gym you would agree when I say that for the normal people like “us” who are not gym junkies and actually have a life outside work or the gym, it gets boring sometimes. Even new gym outfits or gorgeous bodies and beautiful people can’t at some point make you excited enough to work-out.
So, if you’re one of the “us” who gets bored working out or going to the gym, here are a few interesting and beneficial information that will help you cut back on your work-out time and still get effective results. I’m so trying all of these starting tomorrow, well, except for no. 19!
Myth 1: Stretching before working out is crucial to preventing injury
Fact: Stretching after a workout can be beneficial, but stretching before a workout actually doesn’t increase your range of motion. In fact, some studies suggest that stretching destabilize muscles, making them less prepared for strenuous exercise, especially if you’re doing something like weight-lifting. Instead, do a warm-up, which gets your blood pumping.
Myth 2: Lifting weights will make you look bulky
Fact: If you’ve been avoiding the free weights for fear of becoming the Incredible Hulk, no need to flee anymore. When it comes to increasing muscle size, testosterone is key. Men have 20 to 30 times the more testosterone than women, which is why they can bulk up so noticeably. But for you to reach Arnold Schwarzenegger proportions would require you to do far more weight-lifting than the average woman, plus have some sort of hormone imbalance (either genetic or synthetically induced, as with steroids).
In fact, “strength training will help you lose weight faster and keep it off in the long run,” notes Jeffrey Janot, PhD, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at South Dakota State University in Brookings. If you also do cardio, it’ll help you retain muscle as you drop fat, as well as prevent your metabolism from slowing. So don’t focus all your efforts on the elliptical machine — some bicep curls could actually help you reach your ultimate goal.
Myth 3: If I use weights, I will get big and bulky
Fact: If only it was that easy to create muscle. The short term accumulation of body fluids within the tissues of the muscle can make you feel as though you have gained muscle but, infant, you haven’t.
To build muscle mass, you need to be constantly overloading the muscle.
Myth 4: Running is counterproductive to strength training
Fact: Sounds like you need to find a new trainer! “Running is definitely not counterproductive to building muscle, unless you’re looking to dramatically increase muscle mass,” says Gregory Florez, CEO of FitAdvisor.com. “In fact, as a weight-bearing exercise, running helps develop more lean muscle mass in the lower body — which also keeps your bones healthy.”
That doesn’t mean it’s a substitute for strength training, though. “Include lower-body strength moves like squats and lunges and upper-body moves like push ups and pull-ups to reduce injury risk, increase stamina, and boost metabolism,” adds Florez.
Myth 5: Running on a treadmill puts less stress on your knees than running on asphalt or pavement.
Fact: “Running is a great workout, but it can impact the knees — and since it’s the force of your body weight on your joints that causes the stress, it’s the same whether you’re on a treadmill or on asphalt,” says Todd Schlifstein, DO, a clinical instructor at New York University Medical Center’s Rusk Institute.
The best way to reduce knee impact, says Schlifstein, is to vary your workout.
“If you mix running with other cardio activities, like an elliptical machine, or you ride a stationary bike, you will reduce impact on your knees so you’ll be able to run for many more years,” says Schlifstein.
Myth 6: Holding weights while doing cardio increases calorie burn
Fact: Yes, but not enough to make it worthwhile. The added intensity of holding weights while doing cardio does bump your calorie burn slightly, but it can also lead to elbow and shoulder injuries. “The risks outweigh the benefits,” says Douglas Brooks, an exercise physiologist in Mammoth Lakes, California. “You’ll expend more energy if you increase the weight you carry, but excessive or uncontrolled movements can damage the joints or cause muscle injury.”
A better option for blasting extra calories: Increase your speed or resistance level on either the treadmill or the elliptical machine.
Myth 7: Doing crunches and ab workouts will get rid of belly fat
Fact: You can do crunches till you pass out, and you still might not get a six-pack. Why? If you have a high percentage of body fat, your abs will be covered with — you guessed it — fat.
Don’t believe everything you hear on those late-night infomercials! Harr says that while an ab-crunching device might “help strengthen the muscles around your midsection and improve your posture,” being able to “see” your abdominal muscles has to do with your overall percentage of body fat. If you don’t lose the belly fat, he says, you won’t see the ab muscles.
But can doing ab crunches help you to lose that belly fat? Experts say no.
“You can’t pick and choose areas where you’d like to burn fat,” says Phil Tyne, director of the fitness center at the Baylor Tom Landry Health & Wellness Center in Dallas. So crunches aren’t going to target weight loss in that area.
“In order to burn fat, you should create a workout that includes both cardiovascular and strength-training elements. This will decrease your overall body fat content,” including the area around your midsection.
And no, doing ab exercises won’t necessarily make you lose that belly fat, either. The truth is, you can’t spot-train (otherwise, wouldn’t we all be running around with flat stomachs and slim thighs?). In order to get visibly toned abs, you have to first reduce your overall body fat, which means plenty of cardio, coupled with strength training for faster results. After that, the fruits of your labor should start becoming apparent.
Myth 8: An aerobic workout will boost your metabolism for hours after you stop working out.
Fact: This statement is actually true — but the calorie burn is probably not nearly as much as you think!
Harr says that while your metabolism will continue to burn at a slightly higher rate after you finish an aerobic workout, the amount is not statistically significant. In fact, it allows you to burn only about 20 extra calories for the day. While there’s a little bit more of a metabolic boost after strength training, he says, it’s still marginal.
“It doesn’t really count towards your caloric burn,” he says.
Myth 9: Swimming is a great weight loss activity.
Fact: While swimming is great for increasing lung capacity, toning muscles, and even helping to burn off excess tension, Harr says the surprising truth is that unless you are swimming for hours a day, it may not help you lose much weight.
“Because the buoyancy of the water is supporting your body, you’re not working as hard as it would if, say, you were moving on your own steam — like you do when you run,” says Harr.
Further, he says, it’s not uncommon to feel ravenous when you come out of the water.
“It may actually cause you to eat more than you normally would, so it can make it harder to stay with an eating plan,” he says.
Myth 10: If you’re not working up a sweat, you’re not working hard enough.
Fact: “Sweating is not necessarily an indicator of exertion,” says Tyne. “Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself.”
It’s possible to burn a significant number of calories without breaking a sweat: Try taking a walk or doing some light weight training.
Myth 11: As long as you feel OK when you’re working out, you’re probably not overdoing it.
Fact: One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make when starting or returning to an exercise program is doing too much too soon. The reason we do that, says Schlifstein, is because we feel OK while we are working out.
“You don’t really feel the overdoing it part until a day or two later,” he says.
No matter how good you feel when you return to an activity after an absence, Schlifstein says you should never try to duplicate how much or how hard you worked in the past. Even if you don’t feel it at the moment, you’ll feel it in time, he says — and it could take you back out of the game again.
Myth 12: Machines are a safer way to exercise because you’re doing it right every time.
Fact: Although it may seem as if an exercise machine automatically puts your body in the right position and helps you do all the movements correctly, that’s only true if the machine is properly adjusted for your weight and height, experts say.
“Unless you have a coach or a trainer or someone figure out what is the right setting for you, you can make just as many mistakes in form and function, and have just as high a risk of injury, on a machine as if you work out with free weights or do any other type of nonmachine workout,” says Schlifstein.
Myth 13: When it comes to working out, you’ve got to feel some pain if you’re going to gain any benefits.
Fact: Of all the fitness rumors ever to have surfaced, experts agree that the “no pain-no gain” holds the most potential for harm.
While you should expect to have some degree of soreness a day or two afterworking out, Schlifstein says, that’s very different from feeling pain while you are working out.
“A fitness activity should not hurt while you are doing it, and if it does, then either you are doing it wrong, or you already have an injury,” he says.
As for “working through the pain,” experts don’t advise it. They say that if it hurts, stop, rest, and see if the pain goes away. If it doesn’t go away, or if it begins again or increases after you start to work out, Schlifstein says, see a doctor.
Myth 14: Muscle turns into fat when you stop exercising
Fact: Muscle and fat are completely different body tissue, it is impossible for one to become the other. It is definitely true to say that if you stop exercising you will gain fat, but this is because your muscle decreases in size if they are not challenged. With less muscle, your body is less efficient at burning energy, so you are more likely to gain fat.
Myth 15: Yoga can help with all sorts of back pain.
Fact: The truth is that yoga can help with back pain, but it’s not equally good for all types.
“If your back pain is muscle-related, then yes, the yoga stretches and some of the positions can help. It can also help build a stronger core, which for many people is the answer to lower back pain,” says Schlifstein.
But if your back problems are related other problems (such as a ruptured disc) yoga is not likely to help, he says. What’s more, it could actually irritate the injury and cause you more pain.
If you do have back pain, get your doctor’s OK before starting any type of exercise program.
Myth 16: Doing Yoga and Pilates is enough to keep me fit
Fact: Pilates and Yoga are fantastic forms of exercise. They encourage flexibility and good posture. However, you should never just do one thing.
Fitness is about challenging every part of your body in many ways and there is no single form of exercise that can do it all on its own. To see results, you need to raise your heart rate to an appropriate level 3 -4 times per week and vary your routine.
Myth 17: Vegetarian diets are healthier than meat-inclusive ones
Fact: Sure, eating lots of veggies is healthy. But in general, cutting out an entire food group — even if it is one that can be high in saturated fat — is bad idea. Meat is a key source of iron, which keeps your energy levels up, allows you to think clearly, and produces enzymes that fight infection. Moreover, researchers at Pennsylvania State University have shown that iron deficiency increases a woman’s risk for postpartum depression.
Vegetarians often try to get their iron fix through lentils, beans, fortified cereals and tofu. However, you’re still missing protein. Make sure to eat eggs, dairy products, or soy at every meal to get your animal-friendly dose.
Myth 18: A hot bath will prevent muscle soreness
Fact: Cold water is a better bet, says Marty Jaramillo, CEO of the I.C.E. Sports Health Group. “Immersing yourself in chilled water is like an ice pack for your entire body,” he says.
When you exercise, your blood vessels open wider and stay that way for at least an hour afterward. Soreness occurs when waste products like lactic acid settle in your muscles through these dilated vessels. Colder temps constrict vessels, limiting the amount of waste product that accumulates, explains Jaramillo.
Myth 19: Sports bras are just to prevent painful bounce
Fact: Wrong — sports bras are to prevent painful bounce and permanent breast sag. That’s right — it’s not just old age and gravity that’ll weigh your chest down. High-impact activities, like jogging or aerobics, can stress your Cooper’s ligaments (the connective tissue that keeps breasts firm), causing your breasts to sag more quickly.
According to the American Council on Exercise, compression bras work best for smaller-busted women; the more well-endowed (typically a C cup or larger) should opt for an “encapsulation” bra that supports each breast separately. Replace workout bras every six months to a year.
Myth 20: Fresh fruit is better than frozen fruit
Fact: Actually, no. “With shipping and storage, fresh fruit can often sit around for as long as two weeks before it hits your supermarket,” says Suzanne Henson, RD, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s EatRight Weight Management Program. “During that time, it can lose a lot of its nutrients, especially vitamin C.”
In contrast, frozen fruit is often picked and frozen at the peak of freshness. It’s also a better choice for concocting smoothies. But watch out for frozen fruits in syrup — it packs extra calories.