Sussex Performance Centre

13 Fitness Myths Debunked & What You Should Do Instead 

From stretching to eating protein, here are some of the most read misconceptions.

You must stretch before a workout

There is a time and place for static stretching [holding a stretch for 30 seconds], but right before a workout or physical activity isn’t necessarily it. I’d recommend an ‘active warm-up’ – moving around rather than static stretches – to slowly increase your heart rate and range of movement and activate targeted muscle groups you will be using in your workout.

Walk 10,000 steps a day

This came about thanks to a pedometer sold in Japan in 1965 called a manpo-kei, which translates to ‘10,000-step meter’ and it stuck. We reap all the health benefits from doing as little as 4,400 steps a day, according to recent research by Harvard University. Increase your step count by 1,000 a day, working to a target of 7,000 steps.

There’s no scientific evidence to back this rule.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 steps per day is sufficient to gain health benefits such as improved fitness, heart health and reduced risk of diabetes.

Rest days are lazy

There’s this misconception that if you’re not working out, you’re not progressing in your fitness journey, but rest days are as important as workout days. Every time you work out, be it strength training, a run or a yoga class, you create microscopic tears in your muscle tissues; rest allows your muscles to heal. Skipping rest days sets you up for injury.

Exercising means you can eat what you want

Exercise boosts fitness levels, strengthens muscles, reduces stress and improves sleep, but the motto ‘You can’t out-exercise a bad diet’ does ring true. Eating foods to include sufficient protein intake, vitamins, minerals and prebiotics – onions, chicory root, artichokes, asparagus and oats – is crucial for your body to function properly.

While exercising will certainly give you more freedom in what you can eat, if you overconsume calories, irrespective of exercise, you will accumulate fat mass and increase health risks.

Weights aren’t for everyone

The image of young ripped men dominating the demographic in most gyms and in muscle magazines persists. We have  seen a significant rise in women and older people picking up weights thanks to an increased awareness of the health benefits across body image, muscle loss, cardiovascular systems and mental health. Social media has also helped to reduce ‘gym intimidation’ and increased diversity.

Macho men building bigger muscles has been seen as an ego thing. But weights are brilliant for the elderly for improving balance, mobility, strength and preventing injury and falls. Always seek professional advice or supervision from a personal trainer before lifting weights.

Ice baths are necessary for muscle recovery

Sports men and women have perpetuated this myth by plunging into ice baths after athletic performance. However, recent research suggests that ice baths may actually hinder the recovery progress. While ice baths can reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, cold-water immersion can stunt muscle growth and the body’s ability to adapt and make long-term progress.

Longer workouts equal better results

Nowadays smartwatches mean most people base the quality of a workout session on how many calories they’ve burned. But when it comes to getting good results, the intensity and the quality of a workout and how well it aligns with individual goals is much more important than the time spent exercising. Busy people can start thinking in 10- to 30-minute sessions. 

People think you have to run for at least an hour for it to be deemed effective. Doing 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can actually be more effective. A short, higher-intensity workout can leave your body burning calories for much longer afterwards.

You burn more fat on an empty stomach

When you train on an empty stomach, you prompt your body to access adipose tissue cells, which are stored fat, and you utilise it as the energy source. 

But research suggests that eating before a workout enhances performance – and if you are trying to lose weight doing ‘fasted cardio’ and then eat what you like for the rest of the day, it won’t work.

It is normal to be less active as we get older

There is a natural tendency to become less active with age for a number of reasons, from joint pain to a reluctance to go out alone. But more seniors are staying physically active, which keeps bones strong, heart and lungs healthy and maintains a balanced body weight.

Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, dancing or golf are great and group activities such as walking, football or bowls add a social aspect. Even if you’ve been inactive for a long time, it is never too late to engage in regular exercise.

Muscle turns to fat when you don’t exercise

This would be like a cat turning into a dog – it’s physiologically impossible. The muscle type most people think about is skeletal muscle – the tissue which is attached to our bones and contracts and relaxes, allowing us to move. Fat is made up of completely different cell types called adipocytes. When we stop exercising, what we see is a shift from excess calories being used as fuel for muscles to being stored as fat under the skin.

Carbs are the enemy

Sadly, the promotion of low-carb diets for weight loss has meant many people now see carbs as the devil. Every cell in the body uses glucose (which we get from eating carbs) as its main energy source and our brain needs the glucose to produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Without carbs we suffer mentally and physically. Complex carbohydrates found in foods such as brown rice, legumes, vegetables and oats are also essential for immunity, hormone function and fertility. 

Sleeping is cheating

I can’t stress enough that when it comes to fitness and overall health, sleep is your best friend. When you sleep, your body is hard at work repairing muscle tissues, balancing hormones and restoring your energy levels. A lack of sleep can make you feel hungrier all day and impact your concentration, which can lead to injury. That’s not to say you should always pick sleep over exercise – it’s about finding a balance.

You must eat protein after exercise

The idea that anyone who exercises must eat more protein is one of the biggest marketing deceits of sports nutrition. While exercise does increase your need for protein slightly, it is more important to focus on having a combination of carbohydrate with protein. Ideally this is a 2:1 ratio of carbs: protein for resistance training and 3:1 for endurance.

The points used in this article were taken from:

How Many Times a Week Should You Exercise? A Comprehensive Guide
How to Lose Belly Fat: A Scientific Approach
Embracing Fitness After Your 20s: Unlocking Lifelong Energy and Strength
Why Strength Training Can Reduce Chances of Weight Gain During and Post Menopause