Fitness myths are everywhere. A lot of them are just passed down through certification to certification and since most exercise instructors just take what they’ve learned and never read scientific journals or keep up with the studies, people (instructors and trainees) just never question what they’re told.
So here’s the top three fitness “Facts” we’ve just learned to accept over time, and what the studies actually say about them.
Running Will Help You Lose Weight
What’s the first thing most people do when they want to lose weight. Fix what they’re eating? No of course not! It’s take up running.
Just look out of your window on 2nd January (don’t bother on the 1st, most people are too hungover to do anything, and who needs that light coming in from outside when you feel like that!) and you’ll see a sudden influx of people running.
In theory it makes sense. After all in its most basic form, expend more energy than you take in and you’ll lose weight. Again, in theory.
However, in one recent study tracking 13,000 (no, there’s not an extra zero there!) runners over several years – and we’re not talking weekend warriors here, we’re talking avid runners some of which clocked up over 40 miles per week – they found without exception, year on year they gained weight.
There’s lots of potential reasons for this. One could be because it’s such a poor calorie burner (if you do the maths, you’d need to run up to 12.5 hours to burn 1 pound of fat, and you could negate that in about 2 minutes with 1 king-size Mars bar), it could be because it lowers various fat burning hormones as a survival mechanism, or it could be because it doesn’t stimulate your lean tissue making it progressively harder as your body ditches it to help you keep running. But either way, if you have weight to lose, running’s not the way to do it!
There is lots of reasons to run if you enjoy it. Charity events, getting away from it all for a couple of hours a week, or even just as a group activity. If you do though, keep it to short distances!
However if you’re running to lose weight, stop! Not only are you wasting your time and potentially causing injuries to your joints if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight, but you’ll also make it more difficult for your body to let go of the fat it has.
OK, let’s rephrase that a bit. Stretching actually is important for overall balanced fitness, but it can be overemphasised by programmes that aren’t up on the physiology of stretching.
There’s a common misconception that stretching and increasing flexibility will lower your risk of injury. However, so far there’s been over 350 studies on stretching and the overall findings are that spending lots of time stretching has no association with decreasing the risk of injury.
Now, there ARE good reasons for stretching and working on increased flexibility. For example, if you’re involved in a sport such as gymnastics or a martial art. Sometimes also we have an injury because some muscles are tight vs the antagonist which is over flexible. But this is very individual and targeted stretching here is more beneficial than prolonged stretching.
Do remember though, hyper-flexibility (that considerably higher than a joint’s ‘normal’ range of motion) can compromise a joint’s stability and increase the risk of injury rather than decrease it. Too much emphasis on stretching has also been shown in studies to have adverse effects on strength and performance.
The good news is though that stretching for 15 or 30 seconds is just as effective as stretching for longer durations. There’s also studies that show performing strength training movements through a full range of motion are also just as effective as stretching those joints in increasing the range of motion around that joint.
So if you’re not involved in those kinds of sports or are rehabbing a muscular imbalance, for optimal fitness, keep it simple.
Stick to a basic routine after your workout that covers all the major muscle groups, holding each for around 15 seconds.
Stretching and flexibility is one of those things that is incredibly misunderstood purely due to emphasis on the conventional knowledge that’s just been passed down without looking at the science that’s built up over time.
Again, keep it simple.
There’s no benefits to health or well-being from prolonged or drawn out stretching routines.
Going on a Diet Is the Real Way to Get in Shape
This one, funnily enough, is on the right track! At least we’re attacking the root cause here – What you put in your mouth. However going on a diet is possibly the WORST way to ditch the fat permanently!
Did you know, 66% of people who go on a diet put the weight back on? No? That’s because they don’t. 66% of people who go on a diet gain back MORE weight than they originally lost.
Even worse are shake diets. You may have seen companies trying to hawk you some kind of meal replacement shake or another. Normally they turn out to be people close to you (friends, family, etc.) who have had the promise of big bucks dangled in front of them, and suddenly you can’t escape the ‘shake parties’ or pressure to buy their weight-loss in a can.
Well, remember how I said 66% of people on diets gain back more than they lost? Well that’s nothing compared to the shake diets!
In one study nearly 80% of people on a shake diet went one further and developed a strong fear of food. In fact in that same study, one of the guys who suffered the dreaded rebound gained back 20 pounds in 2 weeks.
14 days! That’s more than a pound a day!!
So why don’t diets work? Because they don’t fix the root problem. They replace it with another one. A temporary cover-up.
It’s like taking medication for a cold. It masks the symptoms for you so you can get on with your day, but the problem (the cold) is still there.
Instead, don’t diet, and CERTAINLY don’t start supping meal-replacement shakes. Address the problem and relearn how to eat.
Quick fixes create slow, ongoing problems. Invest the time in yourself to learn how to eat permanently so you’ll always be in shape!
Which one of these fitness myths has caught you out? Comment below!