FITNESS AND EXERCISE: MYTH VS. FACT
There exists an abundance of "myths"
concerning exercise and fitness. For quick reference, Fitness Facts has identified a
few of the more prominent misconceptions:
MYTH: Exercise must be very vigorous to achieve
FACT: Any exercise, regardless of how vigorous it is,
can increase your daily caloric expenditure.
Combined with a sensible eating plan, even
moderate exercise like walking may
help weight loss or weight control, if
done on a consistent basis.
MYTH: All types of exercise increase your appetite.
FACT: Research has shown that appetite is actually
more manageable after some types of exercise.
Moderate activity that lasts less than an
hour may reduce your appetite for
an additional hour or two. Still,
intense exercise that lasts an hour or more can increase appetite.
MYTH: If you exercise, you can eat all you want and
still lose weight.
FACT: This is not necessarily true. If you are
consis- tently taking in more calories than you
expend, you will not lose weight.
Individual metabolic rate, activity level, heredity and type of diet can
all be important variables in the matter of weight
MYTH: The best way to improve your fitness level is to
exercise vigorously every day.
FACT: More is not always better. Your body
needs time to recover between
intense exercise sessions. If you do not
allow the muscles adequate time to
recover, you risk overtraining and possible
MYTH: Abdominal exercises like trunk curls and
sit-ups will trim the fat off your stomach.
FACT: Spot reduction, or burning fat off just
selected body parts, is not possible. Thousands
of people spend wasted hours
performing countless sit- ups and twists in an effort to rid their tummy of
its fat stores. Fat cannot be stretched out, or
burned off in a specific area. These exercises serve
only to work the muscles that are
underneath the fat. Fat is burned off from the
entire body at the same rate. Thus,
if you are losing body fat through
exercise and sensible eating habits, stored fat
comes off equally from every area of your body,
not one specific part like your stomach.
Of course, the areas which hold the
most body fat will lose the most in the end.
MYTH: If you stop exercising your muscle turns to fat.
FACT: Muscle will never turn into fat. Muscle is muscle
and fat is fat. They are two separate types of
specialized tissue that serve totally different
functions. Muscle turning to fat would be
similar to wood turning to metal.
Training and exercise can increase the
size or tone of muscles while de- training may reduce their size and tone. Fat cells
can shrink when your body burns more
calories than you take in, and grow when
they store more fat, which is often
due to a greater caloric intake
MYTH: Once you get older, exercise has no benefit.
FACT: Seniors can derive great health and
fitness benefits from regular activity and
exercise. In fact, their quality of life
can be greatly improved as a result of such consistent activity. Increased
flexibility and stronger muscles and bones help
seniors get around more easily. Regular
car- diopulmonary activity also helps keep the heart
and lungs strong. In addition, increased
activity levels help compensate for the
natural slowing of metabolism with
age and can help control weight.
MYTH: You can get fit in only 5-10 minutes a week.
FACT: Unfortunately, this is just not so. To achieve a
moderate level of fitness, one should be
pre pared to devote at least 2-3 days a week, 15-20
minutes each session. However, even smaller
amounts of activity will have a positive
effect on your caloric expenditure levels. In
this manner, some will always be better than none.
MYTH: If you have achieved a high level of fitness, you
will stay fit even after a long layoff from
FACT: Due to the principles of adaptation and
de- training, a layoff from your exercise program
can have a definite effect on your fitness state.
For example, suppose you were
previously able to run two miles in just
under 13 minutes. You then took a 3 week break from your running
program. Upon returning to your program,
chances are you would no longer be able to
handle that same two mile run as easily as you
used to. Because of the reversability
syndrome, if you stop training your muscles and
cardiop- ulmonary system they quickly lose their
ability to use oxygen as efficiently as before.
MYTH: The more you sweat during exercise, the faster
you will lose body fat.
FACT: Most of the weight lost through sweat is water
weight. Excessive sweating can have
dangerous side effects, including, but not
limited to, dehy dration. For this
reason, Fitness Facts recom mends that proper hydration guidelines are
followed in conjunction with exercise. It is also
wise to avoid the use of rubberized
"sauna suits" for weight loss.
MYTH: Drinking water or other fluids during activity
will cause stomach cramps.
FACT: This is untrue. In fact, if you do not drink water
during intense activity, you actually
risk cramp- ing up, as well as serious
injury from dehydra- tion. Cold water is recommended over warm
water, due to its faster rate of gastric emptying.
Refer to the "Eating and Exercise" chapter of the
guide for more information concerning proper
guidelines for hydration.
MYTH: No pain, no gain.
FACT: This philosophy can eventually lead you to
injury and overtraining, neither of which are
very conducive to fitness gains.
advanced training may stress your system
to the point of temporary
unpleasantness, but it should never cause you
pain. Pain is not, and should not be,
a normal part of exercise or training. If you
experience pain during or after your exercise
training, cease all activity for the day
and maybe even the next day. If the
pain persists, seek medical attention.
Perhaps a better saying would be: "Less pain and strain, more gain!"
MYTH: Lactic acid causes post-exercise muscle
FACT: Lactic acid does not cause delayed muscular
onset soreness. Lactic acid is a by-product
of ATP activation during the
process of muscle contrac- tion (see
Introduction to Exercise Physiology). The increased amounts of lactic acid are nor
mally associated with the burning sensation felt
in muscles during high-repetition contractions.
Lactic acid clears your system about an hour
following a training session, while muscular
soreness normally occurs approximately 24
hours later. This soreness is often the result
of trauma to the muscle and connective tissue
from unfamiliar levels of stress associated with
MYTH: If your muscles are not sore after exercise, you
didn't work hard enough.
FACT: As with "no pain, no gain", the person
who came up with this statement was probably working toward a
major injury of his or her own. As stated above, soreness results from unfamiliar
exertion or with training following a long
layoff from exercise. With proper recovery
stimulus, you will experience less
each successive exposure.
It is not necessary to be
sore after every exercise session to improve
one's fitness levels. Pain and injury should
normal goals or results of exercise.
MYTH: Hard-training exercisers need a high-protein
FACT: As stated in the sports nutrition section, the
optimal diet for a hard-training athlete should
consist mostly of carbohydrates. High protein
diets can cause negative effects for the human
body, including kidney problems. The
protein gained from the average
American diet is
usually more than sufficient for
MYTH: You do not have to stretch if you are fit.
FACT: Exercise sessions often result in shortened
muscles, which can make them
prone to muscular strain injuries.
The more physical activity you engage in, the more time you should devote to
flexibility work. For more information on the
fitness benefits of stretching, refer to the
intro- duction to the "Flexibility/Stretching
Activities" section in this guide.
MYTH: Vitamin supplements improve fitness and
FACT: There is no secret panacea for improved
physical fitness. Except in special cases,
large amounts of these supplements are not necessary. The
massive doses of vitamins consumed by some
athletes and fitness buffs could even prove dan-
gerous. An overdose of any substance may have
a negative effect on the human body.
MYTH: B-12 injections have an energy-boosting effect
on the human body.
FACT: This belief may have grown out of the fact that
some vegetarians have reported benefits
from B- 12 injections. Yet, there is no
medical proof that such injections help
to cure an athlete's chronic fatigue levels.
For more information on vitamins and supplementation, refer to the
MYTH: You should take salt tablets when you are sweating a lot.
FACT: When you sweat, you lose more water than salt. The average American
takes in too much salt in the first place. Consuming salt tablets will simply
raise the sodium levels in your blood and may even increase the chance of heatstroke and blood
clotting which could cause kidney failure, blindness, heart attack, and stroke. Only take salt
tablets under a doctor's supervision. For more information on the correct adjustements to make in your exercise
program in relation to hot and cold weather, refer to the Environmental Considerations chapter later in this section.