Half-truths and downright myths abound when it comes to fitness.
It is important to get the facts on common exercise myths to make your workouts safer, more fun and more likely to achieve the results you want.
- Running is the best way to lose weight. Running or jogging is great exercise, yet the force of your body weight on your joints causes stress, too. The best way to reduce impact is to vary your workout. Mix running with cardio activities like a spin class or elliptical machine. Really, the best way to lose weight is activities you enjoy (so you’ll stick with it), done with frequency and intensity enough to burn more calories than you consume.
- Exercise machines are safer than other forms of exercise. It may seem that cardio or resistance training machines automatically put your body in the right position and help you move correctly, but that’s only true if the machine is properly adjusted for your weight and height. You can still use improper form on a machine. Either way, consult an expert before using any exercise machine to reduce the risk of injury.
- The best time to work out is early in the morning. Morning exercise can improve sleep, which can promote weight loss. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter when you work out, just that you do work out at some point during the day.
- If you can’t exercise every day, there’s no point. Even moderate activity can make you feel better and reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. If you can’t find 30 minutes a day, do 10-minute mini-workouts three times a day. It doesn’t have to be in a gym. Take short walks. Use the stairs. Park far from the door.
- You can spot reduce for toned arms and tight abs. Working a specific muscle group can make you stronger or help reduce your overall body fat, but it won’t shrink your waistline or any other body part. You can’t pick and choose where to burn fat. To lose weight in one area, you have to lose weight all over. The best way to do that is to work all your muscles and combine sensible nutrition (calories in vs. calories out) with cardio exercise and strength training.
- Stretch out before a workout and you won’t get injured. Stretching to prevent muscle soreness or reduce injury isn’t proven to work. Yet, exercises that develop flexibility do enhance performance, fitness and peace of mind. Aim for a basic stretching program two to three days each week.
- Exercise is hard. Physical activity should be fun. There’s a reason kids call it “play” not “work.” Like your mind, your body needs new challenges. Routine can be good, but change things up to combat boredom. Move outside your comfort zone to find new ways to move. Motivate yourself by keeping it social and exercising with friends.
Denise Pinkney is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.