Every so often, I write a column on fitness myths. Health and fitness seems to be swimming in fiction. There are so many wives' tales around the various aspects of fitness that it is a great idea to dispel any nonsense that may impact your journey to better health and fitness.
Let's take a look at a few myths:
1. Core exercises will help you lose belly fat. With the vast majority of people, there is a layer of subcutaneous fat between your abdominals and your skin. This fat layer covers the area we call the six-pack and the only way to remove this fat is through proper nutrition. You can do crunches, situps, and planks until the cows come home and that stubborn fat will still be there covering your glorious abs.
2. Doing more exercise more often will keep you in better condition. Over-exercising is a leading cause of inflammation, hitting fitness plateaus and injury. Over the last ten years, fitness programs have become so popular that it has given rise to "Chronic fitness." Chronic fitness leads to chronic inflammation and stalled fitness goals. More is not better when it comes to exercise and there is ample research supporting the idea that less is more.
3. Sweating means you have a higher metabolism and you are burning fat. The fact that you sweat does not say your metabolism is elevated and it has no bearing on burning fat. Sweat can indicate your level of physical intensity is high, but the purpose of sweating is to cool the body. Actual fat burning occurs inside the body during the conversion of fat to fuel and is oxidized. The idea that fat vaporizes due to sweating is just silly.
4. Having a fast metabolic rate burns fat and is healthy. A fast metabolism is another of those long-standing myths that has a universal appeal with fitness advocates. A person's metabolism is going to be unique, so the idea of a one size fits all fast metabolism is flawed thinking. In fact, for some people with thyroid disorders and other health issues, trying to change up their metabolism can come with health risks. There is also a great body of evidence that chronic exercise and increased metabolism damages the body, causing premature aging and other unhealthy aspects. Finally, the myth that eating certain foods like hot peppers will increase metabolism and burn more calories is overstated and just not accurate.
5. Not getting enough sleep does not affect your fitness. This myth is prevalent among younger folks who are burning the candle at both ends. There is an idea out there that youth and genetics define your sleep requirement which in general is not true. Now add a full fitness regimen to anyone's schedule and lack of sleep will take it's toll on the body's repair and development mechanisms. When people state that they only need 4 hours of sleep and can bust out endurance training or excellent body composition results, they are dealing with short-term gains. Honestly, people who are sleep-deprived have a hard time noticing their decrease in performance and cognitive ability. If you are 18 to old age, you should try and maintain 7 to 8 hours of sleep each day. If you can't get enough sleep at night, work in two 20 minute naps each day to offset your lack of quality sleep at night.
6. The best way to measure your health is to weigh yourself every day. This myth is one of the most frustrating activities anyone trying to get in physical shape can do. Your body weight is one small aspect of your overall health and wellness. When you start a new fitness program, it is likely you have some areas that will change which does not relate to your body weight. First, you are going to gain muscle which weighs more than fat. Then you will start to lose inches in some areas making weight loss inaccurate and body measurements more accurate. The healthiest way to gauge your progress is to follow your strength levels, endurance during cardiovascular exercise and keep a weekly record of your hip, waist and leg measurements. I do not recommend stepping on a scale more than once a month.
The list of health and fitness myths is incredibly long, so I am going to end at just the above six. If it sounds too good to be true, it is usually the case and always check with your physician before taking on any new or crazy health and fitness trends that seem like they are a little out there when you apply common sense to the practice.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.