Myths and Misconceptions
Fitness Myths and Misconceptions
People who engage in fitness programs quite often realize after some time
that they don't make the kind of progress toward their goals they had initially
hoped for. This is usually due to a variety of reasons.
Irregular exercise involvement (attendance), lack of knowledgeable guidance,
poor exercise technique, improper exercise programming, insufficient exercise
intensity or lack of discipline, especially when it comes to necessary adjustments
of diet, may most often be the major reasons for failure.
Fitness enthusiasts also often get confused by a number of longstanding myths
and misconceptions concerning certain fitness issues. These often prevent exercisers from
performing the very exercises which would bring about earliest benefits and
keep them from training with adequate effectiveness.
Some most prevalent misconceptions are addressed in the following paragraphs.
Myth 1 : Spot reduction
Surprisingly, people who engage in fitness programs for fat loss still tend
to believe they need to specifically train the particular bodyparts where fat
has accumulated in order to reduce the fat deposits in these areas. Some people
for example still mistakenly think that side-bends with dumbbells help to decrease
fat deposits in their waist and hip area, sit-ups and crunches are believed
to reduce the midsection, isolation movements such as leg adductions, abductions
and hip extensions are thought to help reduce fat in the thigh or buttock areas.
Working any bodypart systematically against weight resistance strengthens
the muscles of that particular area, but does nothing to decrease the fat tissue
covering the involved muscles. Overlying fat tissue does not provide the energy
for the contractions of the muscles underneath. Performed with the necessary
level of intensity, weight exercises are actually fueled by glycogen (muscle-sugar,
derived from the carbohydrates in our diet), which is stored within our muscle
cells and in the liver.
It is important to understand that losing fat is a process that involves the
whole system, and always occurs gradually throughout the body. Fat loss occurs
according to a pattern dependent upon genetics, sex (hormones) and age. Generally,
fat put on last, will come off first! Unfortunately we can not influence our
body by the selection of exercises where fat deposits should come off first
and where later.
The best way to achieve permanent fat loss is by engaging in a sound overall
weight training program of high intensity, concentrating mainly on the largest
bodyparts. The resulting increase in muscle development raises your metabolism,
which means you will burn more calories throughout the whole day, whether at
work or at rest.
Your weight training regimen should be complemented by regular aerobic conditioning
of sufficient intensity and duration (at least 30 min per session ) in order
to increase your calorie output. As long as you won't consistently burn more
calories than you consume, you will not be able to lose any stored bodyfat!
(Remember: one gram of fat equals 9 kcals!). At the same time, you should also
strive to slightly reduce your daily calorie intake. This doesn't mean fasting,
but rather optimizing your food choices (avoid saturated fats and deep fried
foods; no sweets, cakes, alcohol or carbonated soft drinks!). This will contribute
most significantly to achieving earliest and permanent fat loss, which will
not only improve your appearance but also benefit your health and prolong your
Myth 2 : Sauna is a good means to achieve weight reduction !
The often observed practice of competitive boxers of reducing their bodyweight
by sweating in a sauna before being officially weighed for a competition may
be one reason for the misconception that sauna bathing is a great means to
achieve weight loss. In fact, shortly after having successfully weighed in
at the prescribed weight for their weight class, these athletes very soon replace
the lost fluids by consuming an adequate amount of suitable liquids such as
fresh juice or water and weigh again as much as before.
Manufacturers of home saunas also sometimes publish ads which encourage the
belief that sauna bathing significantly promotes bodyfat loss in order to increase
their sales and profits.
Fitness enthusiasts with weight problems must realize that the weight loss
through sauna bathing is only quite temporary. People may commonly lose between
0.5 and 1.5 l of water through perspiration during a 15 minute sauna bath,
but this high loss of water causes thirst which must be satisfied very shortly
after the sauna bath. Failing to rehydrate can eventually lead to a disruption
of normal heart rhythms and cause fatigue and nausea. Unfortunately, bodyfat
does not melt away in the heat of the sauna like a piece of butter in a hot
pan. Bodyfat is the way our system stores excess calories , and in order to
lose some of that fat we must expend the corresponding amount of energy(calories)
through physical activity.
Although it is probably true that there actually are some extra calories burnt
during a sauna session due to the increased blood circulation, increased rate
of breathing and harder work of the sweat glands, this lost energy hardly amounts
to anything that can be noticed. Sauna bathing has, however, many other desirable
heath benefits and can therefore only be highly recommended. These benefits
include improvement of blood circulation, strengthening of the immune system,
stimulation of all vital organs and glands, removal of lactic acid and waste
residues/toxins from the muscles and the blood, cleansing of the skin and the
pores, relief of joint stiffness as well as relief of tension headaches, back
aches, arthritis, rheumatism, colds, sinus congestion, and minor respiratory
ailments. Sauna bathing promotes a general feeling of well being and its relaxing
effect on the whole body also contributes to improved sleep at night.
Myth 3 :Weight training makes women un-appealingly muscular and bulky !
Women who have seen competitive female bodybuilders in magazines often consider
the appearance of these athletes as unfeminine and "freaky"; the
concern they might attain a similar look, just by engaging in a simple weight
training program makes them shrink back from this most beneficial activity.
No need to worry. Only one among thousands of women may have the genetics necessary
to acquire the looks of a competitive bodybuilder in the first place. In addition
to exceptional genetics, it also takes many years of training with highest
possible intensity, utmost discipline in the diet, and last, but not least,
the use of a variety of (often illegal) supplements and drugs for these female
athletes to attain their excessively muscular appearance. This appearance can
usually only be maintained for the limited time period of preparing for a competition.
After competition, when resuming a normal diet and ceasing to use performance
enhancing supplements and drugs, even these competitive female bodybuilders
very soon regain their normal feminine look with attractive, sportive contours.
Most women fail to realize how extremely difficult it is even for men who
train quite heavy and actually strive to increase their muscle size, to achieve
a certain degree of muscle gain. For the average female an unwanted increase
of muscle size is therefore no issue at all, also due to differences in the
male and female hormone system. As women produce only very limited amounts
of testosterone (male hormone, which plays a major role in muscular development),
the female muscular system naturally rather responds to weight training by
getting stronger and firmer instead of increasing in size.
In fact, due to the fat loss which tends to occur throughout the body with
engaging in a properly designed weight training regimen of sufficient intensity,
the size and circumference of women's bodyparts and limbs will rather be reduced
over time. This will soon enable them to wear smaller clothes sizes and contribute
to looking healthier, slimmer and more attractive.
Myth 4 : The best training method for women is "toning" plus high
amounts of aerobics !
With all the evidence and literature about the benefits of weight training
around many female fitness enthusiasts don't want to miss out on them either.
In the insensible fear that weight training might make them too bulky (see
above), they however often restrict themselves to handling only very light
weights for lots of repetitions and many sets. This concept of performing a
high amount of work with only very little effort is called "toning",
and is erroneously believed to produce muscle "tone" (firmer muscles
) without any size increases.
The term "toning", is merely a made-up term, which does not have
any scientific basis and can't be found in any physiology book. For more than
fifty years it has been known that the low intensity/high volume "toning" approach
is an ineffective training method, as it hardly affects any muscular adaption.
The result of such exercise is a waste of time and energy. Increased
muscle tone , a state of continuous partial contraction , which gives
muscle tissue a firm consistence, is in fact a result of regular progressive
strength training with high intensity !
As already mentioned above, aerobic exercise is a good complement to any weight
training regimen since it helps to burn off excess calories and improves cardiovascular
fitness. However, even with aerobics it is rather the quality not the quantity
which brings about the desired results. In the world of exercise, better quality
always refers to higher intensity rather than higher volume of work with little
effort. Aerobic workouts at only 60 % of maximum heartrate are quite ineffective
as they do not burn many calories and don't contribute much to increase metabolism
or improve cardiovascular fitness. The only reward of long hours of such high
volume/low intensity aerobics is a high degree of boredom.
Challenging aerobic interval training sessions beteen 75 and 90 % of maximum
heart-rate are on the other hand one of the best means to burn calories and
even help to increase metabolism for quite a while after each training session.
Two or three cardio workouts of this type per week for 30 minutes duration
each is all that is required to receive optimum aerobic training benefits.
Whether aerobic exercise or weight training is concerned, exercising at the
appropriate level of intensity is obviously the key to success. With exercise,
more is not better, but better is better!
Master of Fitness Sciences
Specialist in Performance Nutrition