Research is continually bringing us newer, safer and more effective exercise and fitness information. Unfortunately, many "exercisers" adhere to the misinformation that has persevered through the years. Here are a few of the most common myths and misinformation still seen today:
MYTH: Ab exercises will get rid of abdominal fat. You will not lose fat by targeting specific areas of the body. While ab exercises are important for developing strength and building endurance, they will not reduce or remove body fat. You could perform 600 situps a day and the body fat sitting on top of that muscle would remain sitting on top of that muscle. There is no such thing as "spot reducing." To lose fat in a specific area, you must lose overall body fat, and you cannot predict the area in which you will lose fat. Want to reduce body fat? Try a mix of high-intensity cardio (it doesn't have to be high impact) and total body strength training. And don't forget that eating habits play a pivotal role.
MYTH: The more you sweat, the more calories you burn. Sweating may be an indicator of the intensity at which you are working, but it is not an indicator of calories burned. If you notice an immediate drop in weight after a "sweaty" workout, it is only water weight, and the weight loss will last only until you rehydrate.
MYTH: Perform static stretches before a workout. Once upon a time, static stretching (stretch and hold) for 30 to 60 seconds was considered essential before a workout, to avoid pulled muscles. The current theory is that without the body being somewhat warmed up, you can damage muscles and tendons. Today, dynamic stretching (stretching in motion) is preferred, as it better prepares your muscles for a workout. By performing low-intensity movements that are similar to those you'll be doing during your workout, you'll improve mobility and flexibility. Save static stretches for the end of the workout. They're perfect for a cooldown, decreasing muscle tension and helping the body return to a relaxed state.
MYTH: Not being sore means you did not have a good workout. There are better ways to judge the quality of your workout. Soreness is not necessarily an indication of a good strength workout. As long as you reach muscle fatigue, you've have had a successful workout. If you're a beginner, it's perfectly normal to feel a little sore. As your body adapts to exercise, that postworkout soreness will disappear.
MYTH: Lifting weights will make women bulky. Women need not be afraid to put down those 2- to 3-pound weights and pick up heavier ones. Women do not have nearly the amount of testosterone to put on muscle mass as men do.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.