Fitness Articles

The Top 6 Fitness Myths and Truths

Don't Believe These Tall Tales!


Would your friends lie to you? They just might be...

This time of year is all about starting fresh—new goals, solid plans, better habits. You probably have a new exercise routine to help you reach your weight loss and fitness goals. Along the way, whether in the gym, reading the latest books, or talking with your friends, you’ll hear a lot of advice about exercise—not all of which is true.

There are several common misconceptions about exercise and weight loss, but don’t let yourself be fooled! Here are the Top 6 Fitness Myths and the Truths that debunk them:

Myth #1: You can take weight off of specific body parts by doing exercises that target those areas.

This concept is called "spot training" and unfortunately, it doesn’t burn fat. When you lose weight, you are unable to choose the area in which the reduction will occur. Your body predetermines which fat stores it will use. For example, doing sit-ups will strengthen you abs but will not take the fat off of your stomach. Similarly, an activity like running burns fat all over your body, not just your legs. You can, however, compliment a balanced exercise program with a selection of weight training exercises to gradually lose weight and tone the body.

Myth #2: Women who lift weights will bulk up.

While on a weight lifting program, the right hormones (testosterone) are necessary in order to bulk up. Women’s testosterone levels are much lower than men’s, so in most cases, they are not capable of building large muscles. In fact, since muscle takes up less room than fat, women tend to lose inches when they strength train. So in addition to the physical benefits (increased metabolism, decreased risk of osteoporosis, increased strength), strength training will help you slim down too!

Myth #3: If you can’t exercise hard and often, there’s really no point.

Even moderate activity is shown to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don’t have 30 minutes in your day to exercise, try splitting it up into 10-minute segments instead. Everyone can find 10 minutes to spare sometime during the day! There are simple things you can do to increase your activity without having to go to the gym: take the stairs instead of the elevator, jump rope or do body weight exercises (push ups, crunches) at commercial breaks, take a short walk after lunch. Remember that any exercise is better than none!

Myth #4: Performing abdominal exercises will give you a flat stomach.

This is similar to Myth #1 above. The fact is, the only way to get a flat stomach is to strip away the fat around the midsection. This is accomplished by doing cardio/aerobic exercise (to burn calories), strength training (to increase metabolism) and following a proper diet. Abdominal exercises will help to build muscle in your midsection, but you will never see the muscle definition unless the fat in this area is stripped away.

Myth #5: Since you burn more fat if you exercise at a lower intensity, you want to keep your wokout in this "zone".

The most important factor in exercise and weight control is not the percentage of fat calories burned, but the total calories burned during the activity. The faster you walk, bike or swim, for example, the more calories you use per minute. Although you will be burning fewer "fat calories", you will be burning more total calories, and in turn, will lose more weight.

Myth #6: No pain, no gain!

Exercise should not be painful! At the height of your workout, you should be sweating and breathing hard. You should not be so out of breath that you cannot answer a question, but should not be so comfortable that you can carry on a full conversation. That’s how you know you are working at a good level. It’s important to distinguish between muscle fatigue (feeling "the burn") and muscle/joint pain (sharp and uncomfortable pain during movement). Pain is your body’s way of telling you that you’re doing something wrong. Listen to your body. If it’s painful, stop!

There’s a lot of fitness information out there- some reliable, some not. The important thing is to ask questions. If you don’t understand something or question the source, ask a qualified fitness professional for their advice. Sticking to the truths of these myths will keep you healthy, injury-free, and on track to meeting your fitness goals.

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Member Comments

  • We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch.
    - John F. Kennedy
  • This article is 12 years old! Still relevant today
  • Learned something thank you for sharing.
    I learned something new! Thanks.
  • This answered a few questions I have had. Thank you.
  • Small changes lead to big changes and big changes lead to results.
  • Thanks for the information
  • Thanks for the reminders!
  • This is a great article. I believed all these myths at one point, but now know better.

    Thanks Coach Jen!

    AHH! I'm happy to see this answer.

    I'm so tired of seeing/reading that abs are entirely the product of your diet. There are SO MANY variables when it comes to attaining 'a flat stomach', and I hate to break it to you but it's not any 'one thing', but rather the perfect storm of your body type and lifestyle paired with frequency and type of workouts.
    For example if you do higher intensity intervals, or you train at an elite athletes level, your diet has a LOT more wiggle room.
    If you want to figure out the right combo of workouts and nutrition ratio and get kickstarted to seriously flat abs- it IS possible no matter how impossible you think it is.

    Think of achieving a flat stomach like mastering an intricate dish/recipe. For example, take lasagna. You can have all the right 'ingredients', but if you don't have the right timing, temperature, and follow directions in a certain way, that lasagne is going to turn out entirely differently.
    There is so much noise and conflicting advice, which is why it's my mission to cut out all that stuff and simply tell you/give you what the real deal is. like it or not,
    Want more no BS, and 'real results recipes'. Come on over to FitStrongandSexy.
    com - I welcome your comments too!

    FitStrongandSex Editor,
    Amanda Russell
  • I still hear the one about you have to exercise long and intense. When I said on one team that I couldn't walk as fast as a lot of people do, I was told that I wasn't doing anything to get exercise then. I also have friends who say you have to exercise at least an hour at a time (no breaks) for it to be effective. Doesn't matter that they have said short periods and can add them up work.
    There really is no such think as a "FAT BURNING ZONE". Unbeknownist to most people, fat as a percentage of calories burned are highest while at rest. We are burning around 50/50, fat/sugars regularly. As we move and intensity increases we gradually shift away from the fat to utilize the more readily available energy source - glycogen. When you go all out, we are relying on mostly glycogen, AT THAT MOMENT. But these energy pathways are EXTREMELY complicated and after the exercise stops there is a process by which the body will pull from ALL resources to replenish this much needed quick surplus. That's why we do all that heavy breathing. Much oxygen is needed to replenish and convert fat to usable energy. Even though little fat is used during the High Intensity, all energy pathways get involved as the body prepares to "go again". So, by maximizing energy burning DURING the activity, the more the body will then convert the storage to a ready resource, after.

About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist, behavior change specialist and functional training specialist. She is also a RRCA-certified running coach. See all of Jen's articles.