Fitness Myths

Myths are fine when it comes to storytelling, but they have no place in your fitness routine. You've probably heard one (or all) of the sayings below. But choose a saying and you'll find the truth that lies behind the fiction...

Myth No. 1

Running is the best way to get fit.
Forget it. There is no one best way to get fit. You have to do what you like or you'll find a reason to quit. And as for doing it fast, that's another myth that's been built into the mass marketing of fitness. Getting fit -- physically and mentally -- is a process that takes time and patience, with built-in rewards all along the way. If you're looking for instant success -- Lose 10 pounds in 10 days! -- you're only looking for trouble.

Myth No. 2

If you don't exercise an hour a day, five days a week, you might as well do nothing.
Don't believe this all-or-nothing approach. The truth is, there are enormous benefits to doing just a little exercise daily. Studies show that a half-hour walk three or more times a week significantly reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress and boosts your energy and immune system.

Myth No. 3

Warming up before working out isn't necessary if you're careful.
Wrong! Gently stretching out and warming up your muscles before (and after) you exercise is the number one defense against a variety of painful sports injuries, including tendinitis.

Myth No. 4

You can lose weight by dieting.
Not really. More than 90 percent of all people who lose weight by dieting gain it back. Dieting is different from changing your eating habits, opting to eat more fruits and vegetables and much less fat. Dieting is temporary deprivation. Eating healthy means developing a new mind set. The real trick to losing weight is a lifelong pattern of moderate exercise.

Myth No. 5

No pain, no gain.
This myth hangs on and it's really destructive. Pain is your body signaling that something is wrong. If you feel real pain during a workout, you shouldn't push past it; you should slow down and even stop your workout. To increase muscle and develop endurance you may need to experience a slight level of discomfort, but that's not pain. "No pain, no gain" is no good when it comes to developing a lifelong fitness plan. Always see a doctor when experiencing an unusual amount of discomfort. It could signal a serious injury.

Myth No. 6

Heat makes injuries feel better, heal faster.
Not true. Sports injuries -- a sore knee, a twisted ankle, an aching elbow -- hurt because of internal bleeding and swelling, very often caused by overuse. You want to use ice, not heat, to reduce pain and swelling. Always have a doctor check the injury so you can be sure you're on the right track towards healing.

Myth No. 7

Taping an injury prevents further damage.
Don't believe it. Tape can support weak ankles but you can't depend on it. It's more cosmetic than therapeutic. And it's virtually useless for injured knees. If you think you need tape to play, you probably shouldn't be playing. Again, always have a doctor check out any injury.

Myth No. 8

A thick steak is a great pregame meal because meat makes muscle.
Fat chance. Most people should know by now that meat is a poor source for quick energy. That's true of all protein. The ideal pregame meal is one packed with carbohydrates (pasta, whole grains, potatoes, bread). Carbohydrates are the best and most easily utilized form of energy. Also, your pregame meal isn't all that important. The truth is, the energy for your workout today is based on foods you ate yesterday.

Myth No. 9

The best time to exercise is early in the morning.
Not true. There is no one best time to exercise. The best time is the time that appeals to you and fits into your schedule. Some folks love to jump-start their day with a morning workout, while others swear that exercising after the workday is over is a great way to energize for the evening and eliminate stress.

Myth No. 10

If you drink water when you exercise, you'll get cramps.
This is the opposite of what's really true. You need water when you work out -- before, during and after. The more water, the better! If you don't drink enough -- and most of us don't -- your head can ache, or you can feel crampy and tired and not know why. Not enough water is why. Drink, drink, drink!

Myth No. 11

Exercising the same body part every day is the fastest way to build strength.
Exercising the same body part every day is the fastest way to cause injuries. To build strength, you want to work your muscles hard -- ideally, with weights, to the point of exhaustion -- but then you need to give those muscles a day of rest and recovery. Overdoing it in the weight room can cause serious strains and pains. If you don't know what you're doing, get help.

Myth No. 12

Women who lift weights will develop big, bulky muscles.
Wrong again. Those big, bulky muscles we tend to associate with bodybuilders most often are the result of male hormones, and women don't have enough of it to make their muscles massive...unless, of course, they are into serious lifting. With near-starvation (to lower body fat) and steroids, women can bulk up beyond normal ranges, but for most women, strength training is a wonderful way to tone up, firm up and shape up muscles in a beautiful way.

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