Whether you’re a Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Coach, or just someone wanting to lose weight, fitness is a state of well being that can bring joy and happiness in various ways. With the growth of the internet and social media, fitness professionals, fitness enthusiasts, and fitness influencers are constantly trying to outdo one another by coming up with new training methods, and ways in which to get fit. As a result many fitness myths have surfaced, and gained undeserved attention very quickly.
The following five fitness fables are some of the more misunderstood myths that need to be tackled.
Myth 1 – ‘you need to workout everyday to be fit’
A common misconception is that people believe they need to exercise everyday in order to maintain their fitness levels and be considered ‘fit’. With many people running busy lifestyles and trying to juggle work, families, and travel, they barely have time to sit down and relax, let alone exercise for several hours a day. By having the mindset that exercise is required in large amounts everyday for it to be of any benefit, it’s easy to see why so many people decide to not exercise at all.
In actual fact The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adult’s aged 18-64 only need to complete 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. This can be broken into five 30-minute blocks across the week and be as simple as taking the dog for a walk, meeting a friend for a game of tennis, or walking or riding to work or the shops. If one 30-minute bout is too long breaking exercise into 3 x 10 minute bouts across the day has proven to be just as effective.
To save even more time WHO recommends that if activity is at a higher intensity then only 75 minutes a week is required for health benefits. That’s 15 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week! Health benefits include lower rates of all cause mortality from diseases of the heart, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancers, depression and several others.
Although 150 minutes of moderate physical activity is ideal to improve markers of fitness, it must be understood that even a single bout of exercise a week is still going to incur some benefits, and is a great place to start.
MYTH 2 – ‘the longer you workout the better’
Referring to WHO again, they say additional benefits can be gained from exercising at a moderate intensity for up to 300 minutes a week, which works out to be 60 minutes a day for five days a week. However, exercising anymore than this hasn’t been proven to decrease risks of all-cause mortality, and this seems to be the ceiling for health benefits to occur. Obviously if someone is competing in a sport or wants to improve their performance, they will train longer than this to refine their skills, however for general fitness guidelines 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity (75-150 minutes if vigorous intensity) a week is the recommended.
There also becomes a point where if someone is exercising too long that it becomes counter-productive and in fact increases chances of injury and places more stress on the body. This is generally only in extreme circumstances where athletes are training in excess of 3-4 hours a day and not giving their body any recovery time. A common sport in which this occurs is Ironman triathlon. Although these athletes might appear to be super fit, the stress they are putting on their internal organs is actually detrimental to their health and their immune systems are much weaker than someone who lives a well-balanced healthy lifestyle.
MYTH 3 – ‘exercise is the best way to lose weight’
Exercise is obviously important and does contribute to weight loss, however if eating habits are poor then it is a lot more difficult to shake the weight off. Many studies have found that a smart eating plan alone is much more sufficient in inducing weight loss than exercise. Why is this? Well in order to lose weight a caloric deficit must be created, meaning the amount of calories burned must equal less than what is consumed through the diet. It is a lot harder to burn calories through exercise then it is to consume them through eating, so a healthy balanced diet is essential for weight loss.
MYTH 4 – ‘Weight training is only beneficial for men’
This myth was brought about by the fact that women find it harder to bulk up and gain muscle than men do. The reason for this is that men on average produce more testosterone than women, and it is this hormone that plays a major role in how muscle is built. This doesn’t mean women can’t gain muscle, it just means they won’t gain it as quickly or easily.
All this considered, one of the most important uses of weight training is to gain strength, which has nothing to do with gender. If women weight train they will be able to improve their relative strength by just as much as men do. Improving strength is also just as important for women as it is for men in terms of reducing the risk of injury, as muscles need to be strengthened around fragile joints.
MYTH 5 – ‘The best time to exercise is first thing in the morning’
The best time to exercise is anytime that it can be fit in. Some people say that training first thing in the morning is better as it gets the brain active and allows them to be more productive throughout the day. However for someone who works night shifts and may need to sleep during the day an afternoon run or gym session would suit better with their schedule. Consistency with exercise is the most important factor, and hence it doesn’t make a difference what time of the day you work out. So long as the activity is completed the benefits will be the same.