In honor of Health Literacy Month, a time to extoll the virtues of understandable health information, we’re taking a look at 6 persistent fitness myths that need to be debunked. Keeping to a fitness plan is difficult enough without the added stress of conflicting information.
Myth #1. No night bites. Is it ok to eat after 8pm? Conventional wisdom says if you eat close to bedtime you’ll gain weight. Recently, thinking has switched to more of a ‘calories in/calories out’ calculation–if you take in more than you burn you’ll gain weight, regardless of what time you eat.
What’s more important are the types of foods you eat before hitting the hay: Don’t go to bed hungry, but don’t sit down for a big meal right before hitting the lights. Avoid sitting down with a bag of chips or a box of crackers, too. Instead, have a light snack like a piece of fruit, small bowl of cereal or a handful of nuts rather than a big meal to take the edge off so you don’t go to bed with a grumbling tummy.
This will also help with another food-related sleep problem: acid reflux. To avoid acid reflux, refrain from eating 3-4 hours before you go to bed.
Myth #2. Stretching: the truth. To stretch or not to stretch? There is a lot of conflicted thinking about the benefits of pre-workout stretching. Most recent studies indicate that static stretching before weights or other strength exercises does nothing to prevent injuries, and in fact may impair your performance.
On the other hand, dynamic stretching like jumping jacks or flexibility exercises like yoga are excellent for warming up your muscles.
Myth #3. Pain is gain. Does getting in shape have to hurt? The old saying ‘no pain, no gain’ dates back to a time when people devised clever rhymes to motivate themselves. But the truth is that exercise can–and should–be relatively pain free. Discomfort and the strain of exertion are to be expected, but pain is the body’s safe word, a way for it to yell, “Stop!”
Myth #4. Spot reduction is a thing. Frustratingly, there is no such thing as spot reduction of fat (without the aid of a liposuction doctor). The best you can do is work and grow certain muscles in a targeted area while simultaneously losing fat overall. This will give the appearance of minimizing certain ‘problem areas.’ To completely remove stubborn fatty deposits, get old Dr. Hoover on the line.
Myth #5. BMI works for everyone. Do you ever wonder what the BMI number we’re given means, and why it’s always just a little too high? For years, Body Mass Index (BMI) has been a standard metric for determining whether or not someone is normal weight, overweight, or obese. But now, researchers are rethinking the BMI. The measurement fails to account for body composition and doesn’t differentiate between muscle and fat, or where that fat is distributed in the body.
Since belly fat is more dangerous than other fat, increasing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and death, the BMI lacks the insight to note possible health problem associated with obesity. BMI also doesn’t factor in differences in musculature, ethnicity, gender, and age. In short, BMI isn’t TMI.
Myth #6: You can’t lose weight with weights. Sure, cardio is tops in calorie burn. But weight lifting and strength training also burn calories, although they are harder to measure. Those who perform weight training have been shown to elevate their metabolism for hours after their workouts, thereby burning additional calories. Makes sense: more muscles need more energy. Lose weight, but don’t lose weights.
So, keep these in mind until the next wave of scientific data indicates everything we now think to be untrue. What are some fitness myths that really irk you? Tell us over on Facebook.
The MyFitnessPal Team