Thanks to the inconsistencies of ‘Dr Google’ and the proliferation of information online, fitness falsehoods have crept their way into the mass psyche. Some of them are downright dangerous and sabotaging your fitness goals. Read on to make sure you don’t fall victim to one of the top 14 fitness myths.
Myth 1: Over 50s are too old to exercise – they could hurt themselves!
This ridiculous statement couldn't be further from the truth. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve agility and strength, which can guard against accidents like falls.
In 2012, the peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ released the results from their Lifestyle integrated Functional Exercise (LiFE) study. It revealed that balance and strength training are effective in reducing falls in older people, as well as increasing energy levels leading to higher engagement in everyday activities.
Myth 2: Yoga is a great alternative to cardio workouts
Yoga boasts a huge number of health benefits (increased core strength, endurance, flexibility etc.), but calorie burning isn’t one of them. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) states, “Researchers found that a 50-minute session of Hatha yoga burns 144 calories, equivalent to a slow walk, and provides no substantial aerobic benefit.”
That isn't to say you should throw in the yoga mat and ditch your weekly sessions. Instead, combine yoga with aerobic exercise for a balanced workout regime.
While yoga has plenty of health benefits, calorie-burning isn't one of them
Myth 3: Woman should avoid strength training as it will make them bulky and masculine.
False, false, false! Unless you mix testosterone injections with your strength-training program, there is little chance you will bulk up like a body builder. A study printed in the Journal of Applied Physiology revealed that older men, not women, exhibited small increases to body mass after a nine-week strength-training regime. Indeed, strength training is vital for aging men and women as it encourages stronger bones and muscles.
Myth 4: You need to exercise every day to see results
Instead of working out every day, most personal trainers agree that ‘rest days’ are crucial to overall fitness, particularly as our bodies’ age. Allowing for rest days in between workouts prevents injury by giving the body and muscles time to recuperate and recover.
Myth 5: Older adults are too frail to exercise
A 2013 study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that sustained physical activity can significantly boost the overall health of older adults, even those who become active late in life. In other words, it’s never too late to start exercising.
Myth 6: Sweat levels reflect calories burned
This common fitness myth claims the amount of sweat you produce while exercising directly correlates with the number of calories burned. I.e. the more you sweat the better! Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you feel about sweat, a streaming forehead and drenched underarms don't necessarily mean you’ve burned off that burger you had for lunch. Sweat is simply the body’s response to overheating. If the myth were true, all you’d need to keep fit is a sauna or a holiday house in Cairns!
Myth 7: Exercise can damage aging joints
Anyone who suffers from arthritis or other chronic ailments will know the pain and discomfort caused by the simplest daily tasks. As such, we associate exercise with discomfort and increased pain levels. However, exercise can actually reduce arthritis pain.
A 2014 study printed in the Journal of Rheumatology proved that traditional tai chi exercises are successful at reducing arthritis symptoms while improving physical functioning. The 12-week program showed those who engaged in regular tai chi noticed significantly less pain and joint stiffness, in addition to improved balance and abdominal strength.
Myth 8: Too much exercise is never enough
We all know exercise is good for the body and mind, but some individuals take their workout schedules to the extreme. There is evidence that argues prolonged strenuous exercise is counterproductive, leading to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body (cortisol is responsible for painful inflammation).
There's a limit: too much exercise can have adverse affects
A report by Lucille Lakier Smith elaborates, “It is suggested that the overtraining syndrome is a response to excessive musculoskeletal stress, associated with insufficient rest and recovery, which may induce a local acute inflammatory response that may evolve into chronic inflammation and produce systemic inflammation.”
Instead try light to moderate daily exercise – half an hour a day at least five days per week.
Myth 9: Carbs are detrimental to your fitness
Carbohydrates have received negative press for far too long, and some diets even recommend cutting out carbs entirely to increase fitness and induce weight loss. While it is true that not all carbs are ideal for everyday consumption, they should by no means be discarded entirely. Carbs are actually credited with assisting the healthy loss of fat, so choose wisely and avoid sugary carbs and greasy junk food.
Myth 10: Exercising on an empty stomach is an effective way to burn calories
This is a persistent myth without scientific evidence to back it up. The myth suggests that exercising on an empty stomach will help you burn stored fat, rather than the food you have recently consumed. But numerous studies tell a different story. According to Brad Schoenfeld (president of Global Fitness Services) exercising on an empty stomach has little effect on the amount of calories burned.
“At best, the net effect on fat loss associated with such an approach will be no better than training after meal consumption, and quite possibly, it would produce inferior results. Moreover, given that training with depleted glycogen levels has been shown to increase proteolysis, the strategy has potential detrimental effects for those concerned with muscle strength and hypertrophy.”
Myth 11: Drinking copious quantities of water will aid weight loss
This is only true if you are replacing other drinks – like soft drinks and fruit juices – with water. Otherwise, there is no scientific evidence or studies to suggest that drinking excess amounts of water will help you lose weight.
Don't drink too much water when exercising
Keeping hydrated is always recommended, especially when exercising, so remember to drink water throughout the day, but don't expect it to be a weight loss wonder. Much like oxygen, water is merely something our bodies need to function.
Myth 12: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the best way to get fit
HIIT has its place in the fitness world, but it isn’t the be all and end all some people claim it is. In fact, high intensity interval training tends to be hard on the body and not appropriate for older adults with existing health issues. A better option is to be flexible with your fitness and try a bit of everything: walking one day, yoga the next, followed by a spin class a couple of days later or a half-hour jog. Variety is king!
Myth 13: Sit-ups give you a flat stomach
If only it were that simple! Unfortunately, sit-ups alone won’t deliver the flat stomach you had in your 20s. Cardio and aerobic exercise are the only ways to rid yourself of the bulge, while sit-ups will strengthen your core and improve abdominal flexibility. The moral: don’t give up the sit-ups, just combine them with cardio workouts and healthy eating.
Myth 14: Exercise could induce heart attacks in older adults
Many fear that over-exertion on the body can lead to heart attack. After all, people have had heart attacks while exercising. People have also had heart attacks on the toilet or while eating breakfast, but nobody suggests we ditch these activities from our lives. The key is to find the right exercise for you – speak to your GP for tips and advice. The suitable type and amount of exercise actually improves heart health, with those who remain inactive at higher risk of developing heart problems.
Have you encountered any other fitness myths not mentioned on our list? We’d love to hear from you!