Debunking the Fitness Myths

With technology at the ready and the myriad of articles at our fingertips, a great deal of information can be gleaned by using a simple search engine. Unfortunately, not all information is accurate nor grounded in science. The fallacies and myths around fitness and health are plentiful and can often be misleading. Myths such as exercise can replace a bad diet or crunches give you six-pack abs are rampant. Such “gym-talk” has led to many common myths about the dos and don’ts of exercise. But this fact remains clear – exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower your risks for many cancers.

This includes colon, breast and endometrial cancers. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress and strengthen your immune system. It also curbs your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Attached are some common myths around fitness and health.

1. Myth: You can target your fat burn. 

Fact: Working out can reduce overall fat, but you can’t control what part of your body burns the most fat.  Your body breaks down fat and uses it as fuel when you exercise, however, your body’s not picky. It’ll burn fat from anywhere in your body, not just the part you’re working the most.

2. Myth: Lifting heavy weights bulks up women. 

Fact: Lifting weights tones and shapes your body – it doesn’t make you look like a bodybuilder. Women have low levels of testosterone so they don’t naturally build massive muscles.  “There is nothing wrong with a woman pushing up to 200 pounds on a leg press if she can do it.”

Lifting weights can prevent loss of muscle mass, help build bone density and increases the rate at which your body burns calories to keep you at a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you fight off diseases like cancer.

3. Myth: Crunches are the best moves for your core. 

Fact: Crunches are one of the least effective core exercises because they don’t get rid of belly fat. To shed the extra jiggle, increase your cardio workouts and add resistance training that targets the entire core.

It’s important to trim excessive body fat because it can increase your chances of getting heart disease and certain cancers. It also puts you at risk for metabolic diseases like diabetes.

4. Myth: Exercise can erase a bad diet. 

Fact: Exercise by no means makes up for a bad diet. Diet and nutrition play a larger role than exercise in weight management and cancer prevention.  In fact, some foods actually help protect you against certain cancers.

So, don’t treat exercise like an activity that justifies eating unhealthy foods.

5. Myth: When you stop strength training, muscle turns to fat. 

Fact: Muscle can’t turn into fat, just as fat can’t transform into muscle. Fat and muscle are two different types of tissue. When you stop strength training, you lose muscle mass and your metabolism slows down.  A sluggish metabolism means your body is burning fewer calories at rest, which can lead to weight gain.

Being overweight or obese increases your risks for colon, pancreatic, kidney, endometrial, gallbladder, esophageal and breast cancers.

6. Myth: You need to spend hours in the gym. 

Fact: You can get all the benefits of exercise whether you’re at the gym or at home. The key is to exercise smarter, not longer. To get the most out of your workout, strength train before you do aerobic exercises.

Here’s why:  When you work out, your body activates its limited supply of carbohydrates first. This is the best fuel for short term and intense exercise, like strength training. After your body has depleted its carbohydrate storage, it starts using fat for fuel. And fat is the best fuel for aerobic exercise.

You should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, like brisk walking and slow swimming, each week to reduce your cancer risks. Or you can do more vigorous activities, like running and fast bicycling, for at least 75 minutes each week.

7. Myth: Stretch before exercising.  

Fact: It’s more effective to statically stretch after you exercise when your muscles and joints are warm. Static stretching before has little to no benefit, in fact, it should be dynamic activation. Stretching after can improve performance and flexibility, and helps you maintain a healthy range of motion in your joints.

Stretching also can reduce stress, decrease muscle tension, and improve your circulation and posture.

The more fit you are, the better chance you have at fighting off diseases like cancer and the myriad of HypoKinetic diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Focus on basic exercise principles, find something that appeals to you while working on your fitness and health goals and most importantly go have fun.