There are some exercise myths that seem to persist, even when there is no scientific evidence that supports them. Here are a few that could get in the way of an effective workout or even be harmful.
Doing a lot of crunches is healthy and will get rid of belly fat
You can’t turn the belly fat into muscle by doing crunches. In order to reduce belly fat, you have to make lifestyle changes that help you lose weight and, even then, you have no control over where your body chooses to lost fat. In addition, crunches only target a few muscle groups and put pressure on the lower back, which can cause lower back pain and injury in the long term. According to research performed by University of Waterloo biomechanics professor Dr Stuart McGill, when you bend your spine while doing a crunch, about 340 kg of compressive force can be applied to the spine. Instead, try planks and other exercises that allow your spine to remain in neutral alignment (not curved) and work on strengthening your entire core. A pilates class is an excellent way to strengthen your entire core.
You should not work out in the evening or you will have trouble falling asleep
Updated research suggests that working out in the evening may not keep you awake, as long as you work out at least an hour before bedtime. You should work out during the time when you feel you have the most energy and if you are not a ‘morning person’, this may very well be in the evening. Also, working out in the evening means that you do not have to sacrifice sleep in order to wake up very early in the morning to exercise.
If you exercise, you don’t have to make diet changes to lose weight
This is only partially true. Exercise alone may lead to weight loss, but only if you exercise enough to create a large enough calorie deficit. Even if you do not change what you eat, controlling portion sizes and tracking calories is still necessary to ensure your exercise routine is creating a calorie deficit. A study published in September 2018 in the American Journal of Physiology supports this concept. In the study, participants who created a calorie deficit by exercising five times a week for an hour and burned 600 calories at each session did lose weight without making changes in diet. However, participants who only exercised for 30 minutes five times a week and burned only 300 calories a day did not lose weight.
‘No pain, no gain’
To progress in your exercise program, yes, you must gradually increase the difficulty of your workout, but sharp, stabbing pain is a sign that you have increased the difficulty of your workout too quickly and could cause injury. You should exercise to fatigue, not until you feel pain. Also, if you note that one group of your muscles is already sore at the beginning of your workout, choose another group of muscles to work out that day. Some people gage the effectivity of their workout by how sore they are the next day, but being sore only means you exercised in a way your body is not yet adapted to. Instead, track your progress in other ways, such as measuring weight loss or a one-rep maximum test to gage gain in strength.
- Flack, Kyle D et al Energy compensation in response to aerobic exercise training in overweight adults, American Journal of Physiology, 13 Sept 2018