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Exercise Myths: Clearing up the confusion

posted May 22, 2018, 5:37 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN

As a former exercise specialist, turned dietitian, I was constantly bombarded with all the myths and misconceptions about exercise. The funny thing is that all these years later the myths and misconceptions are still basically the same. Since in our last blog, Evangelina, discussed what types of exercises we should do, this week we’ll clear up some myths surrounding exercise.

Myth #1 - You have to exercise for an hour or break a sweat to get any benefits.

Truth - Any movement can have benefits. In fact, walking has shown to improve cardiovascular health, mood, and help prevent diabetes and obesity. Plus it is low impact so it’s easy on your joints. Stretching and gentle yoga help improve flexibility and balance which can reduce the risk of injuries. The recommendations for exercise are 150 minutes/week which can be 30 minutes 5 days/week, or 20-25 minutes 7 days/week, or any time/day combination that works for you. So no worries if sweating isn’t your thing, just get out there and walk.

Myth #2 - 100 crunches will give me flat abs (aka: a six pack).

Truth - spot training will strengthen those targeted muscles but it won’t burn the fat in just that area. When you burn fat you lose it from all over. You may even cause muscle imbalances when you only work on one muscle group without working the opposing muscle group. So if you want flatter abs create an energy deficient through cardiovascular exercise and decreased food intake and strengthening all the major muscle groups (legs-quadriceps and hamstrings, chest and upper back, core -abs and lower back, arms-biceps, triceps, and shoulders) for a well balanced workout that will decrease injury risk.

Myth #3 - The more I exercise the more weight I’ll lose.

Truth - This will work only if your calorie intake remains the same or decreases. Keep in mind that a 150 pound person will burn approximately 110 calories during a 30 minute walk at a moderate pace (you can hold a conversation while walking). Click here for a physical activity calculator. You will need a bigger calorie deficit than that to lose weight. The most recent recommendations are to aim for a 250-500 calorie deficit per day depending on how much weight you want to lose and how many calories you currently consume.

Myth # 4 - I will burn more fat if I exercise on an empty stomach.

Truth - this is known as “fasted cardio” and in theory it would work since the body’s carbohydrate stores are depleted you will burn fat but it doesn’t last. One study by Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed no difference in weight loss between the group of women who fasted before exercise and those who drank a 250 calorie shake prior to exercising. In fact, not eating prior to exercise, especially high intensity exercise, may be counterproductive as you won’t make it very long.

Lace up your shoes and hit the road, court, gym, or studio (or jump in the pool). But, most importantly have fun.

* Before starting any exercise program check with your health care provider.