“When there’s something strange, in your fitness plan, who you gonna call? Fitness Busters!”
Do you ever wonder if some of the most common fitness sayings are fact or fiction? Does it keep you up at night to know you could be working out in a way that is better for your body? Well if you have, then this blog is here to help!
(But if this questions aren’t ones you think about, keep reading anyways because some of these tips might still apply to you! If you’re not working out properly, it could really hurt you in the long run.)
So let’s see if some of these common fitness sayings are myth or facts to help ensure that you all are getting the most out of your workouts today and for the future!
STATEMENT #1: MYTH OR FACT: “Always stretch before you exercise!”
MYTH! Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Wait so it’s bad for you then?” Not at all! It just is not all that necessary. The myth that has been surrounding the fitness world has always been that stretching will help prevent injury. According to personal trainer Maik Weidenbach, stretching may actually do harm! It weakens the muscles by about 30% and that reduced tension could lead to injuries. It would be better to simply start off with a warm-up of some kind before exercising. For example, if you go on a run, start off with a brisk walk just to get your muscles working. Similarly, if you are doing intense weight training, start off with some lighter weights and build up for the workout.
Now, stretching AFTER you exercise is definitely recommended! Now, remember: it won’t help you recover faster either though. A study at the University of Milan has indicated that there were no changes in blood lactate levels, an indication of muscle fatigue, when comparing those who do and don’t stretch after exercising. But it will help with joint flexibility, which is definitely a plus as that will help with long-term effects of exercising.
STATEMENT #2: MYTH OR FACT: “No pain, no gain!”
MYTH! Now, for all of you biology students, I know that you are thinking, “But what about all the times that my muscles are feeling a burn due to lactic acid? That’s just the body telling me I’m pushing myself a bit. I thought that was good for exercise!”
And you are right! But some people take “no pain, no gain” to mean something a bit more extreme. The phrase almost denotes that the more pain you are in, the more you are probably gaining or that all pain acts as some sort of indicator that you are working out in the correct way. Both of these statements are false. Just because you are in pain does not mean that you are doing the exercise correctly. By how serious that pain is, it probably means that you are actually doing it wrong or that you are taking on too much!
If you are experiencing any sharp or acute pain, please STOP! Exercising is not about who can handle the most pain so they can achieve their desired outcomes. Any sign of serious pain means that you are hurting yourself, whether it’s in your muscles or elsewhere. It is normal that you feel a slight burn, as that is just your muscles telling you that you are pushing yourself to do better and handle a bit more strength. But by no means does this tell you to injure yourself. As Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer David H. Williams has said, “There is a difference between discomfort and pain.”
So just keep in mind that if you are experiencing pain during your workout, try and assess if it is a normal burn or something more serious. If it is, there is no shame in stopping! It’s always better to know your limits and just increase the intensity of one of your normal workouts before trying something completely out of your comfort zone.
STATEMENT #3: MYTH OF FACT: “Only certain exercise machines at the gym are good to use”
FACT! Some of these machines could actually be very harmful to various areas and muscles of your body, even when these are used properly!
For example, a good portion of these exercise machines incorporate some form of sitting while trying to exercise a certain portion of your body…but isn’t sitting bad for you? According to Justin Russ, a strength coach from IMG Academy in Florida, sitting is harmful, as it could lead to “increased heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity.” By engaging in regular free-weight exercises that incorporate natural human body movement patterns like squatting, it’ll help you exercise the right areas of your body while ensuring you don’t engage in other harmful activities.
That being said, not all exercise machines are bad for you!
Here are two examples that are fantastic machines to help you work out and don’t require sitting:
- The Cable Biceps/Triceps Bar
It’s built so you’d be working out your biceps and triceps. You essentially just pull the bar, which is attached to weights, up (to workout biceps) and down (to workout triceps). It is especially great because it’s a bit less dangerous than having to work with free weights as people tend to swing those around a bit and may hurt either themselves or others. It is also great because it helps you build up the strength in your triceps and biceps to engage in push-ups or pull-ups. So if you can’t quite do many of those yet, this machine is a safe option for you to build up that strength!
- The Hanging Leg Raise
Even though in the title it refers to the legs, this awesome machine actually helps work out the core and hip flexors. You put your arms on the arm stands, while your legs are hanging. Then you use your core to lift your legs! So this is a bit of a tougher machine to use, but if you think your core can handle it, then give this one a try as well!
STATEMENT #4: MYTH OR FACT: “You have to spend more time exercising to stay in shape!”
MYTH! This is a super big myth! Especially for those who are just getting into the groove of working out. This will probably do more harm than good! This is true for both day to day and in the long run.
Although studies have recommended that people should get some sort of physical work out for 30-50 minutes, 5 or so days a week, you should never over-do it! You don’t even have to do all of your working out at once each day. According to a study done at Arizona State University, those who split up their 30 minutes of their daily walk into three 10 minute sections had, on average, lower blood pressure readings than those who took their daily walks at 30 minutes per day.
For long-term, you definitely need to take rest days, especially after long workouts, as you could potentially injure yourself. According to celebrity trainer, Ashley Borden, by working out too often, you would be preventing your body from ever recuperating and improving to take on more challenging workouts the next time.
So just remember: work out often but don’t forget to listen to your body! Your body will tell you what it requires, whether it’s food, rest, or breaks in between exercising.
STATEMENT #5: MYTH OR FACT: “Movement helps with stress!”
Fact! Movement helps reduce stress due to neurochemical effects.
According to articles from Harvard Health Publications and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercising helps reduce the stress-inducing hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. By helping to reduce those, you will be less likely to feel stress at various situations since your body won’t be filled with higher levels of those hormones. Also, exercise actually helps stimulate the production of endorphins, or what I like to call the “happy” chemicals. These are the hormones that produce the effects as seen with painkillers or elevating your general mood.
Likewise, this amazing fact also refers to mental exercises, those that help your body as well, such as meditation, can also help reduce stress. Meditation has been known for helping “slow the heart rate, lower the blood pressure, reduce the breathing rate, diminish the body’s oxygen consumption, reduce blood adrenaline levels, and change skin temperature”, according to studies of Indian yoga masters. These will counteract the general effects that are associated with stress, which are elevated blood pressure and racing of the heart.
There is even a form of meditation that is referred to as progressive muscular relaxation. By tightening your muscles, holding that for 20 seconds, and slowly relaxing, you’ll be able to both release your body’s physical strains and stress while also releasing your mind’s stress!
So here are all of the facts and myths that I think are the most important to know about fitness! Remember to always do your research about common fitness sayings before you believe them or even performing them!
Good luck, once again, and you all will do wonderfully as you embark on your unique fitness journeys!
Tiffany Hu is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics with a minor in Bioinformatics. She is a blogger for Move Well of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. She is the co-Director of the Student Health Advocates, which focuses on educating students on various intersections of health. Tiffany is also the Special Projects and Alumni Coordinator of the UCLA Care Extender Internship, which helps students volunteer at all departments in the UCLA Medical Centers.