We asked fitness experts, trainers, and instructors “What’s the most harmful popular misconception about health and fitness?”
Here’s what they told us.
1. Just find one perfect kind of exercise that works and stick with it.
“Getting too specialized in one type of fitness routine without variety will 9 times out of 10 lead to injury. Each exercise program should contain strength, cardio, and mobility.”
2. A real fitness routine will require a lot of time, sacrifice, and commitment.
“Most people who don’t work out believe that exercise takes focus and energy away from their other life goals. ‘Ain’t got no time for that,’ they’ll say.
It’s only when you come to realize that exercise ADDS focus and energy to everything else in your life that it becomes to most perfectly logical thing to do.”
3. That if a workout doesn’t crush you, it’s not doing anything.
“Glorifying pain leads to more injuries, inconsistent results, and a very limited understanding of what it really means to harness the body’s power.
Learning how to balance high-intensity workouts with moderate and low-intensity workouts is a crucial skill for creating a balanced, sustainable program.”
—Jonathan Angelilli, founder TrainDeep
4. That everyone should be trying to lose weight.
“For many people, the number on the scale shouldn’t matter. It isn’t what you weigh — it’s … your body composition [that] needs to change. The ratio of muscle to fat is far more important than the scale can reveal.”
—Alycea Ungaro, owner and founder Real Pilates
5. That you can get dramatic and lasting results quickly.
“All those advertisements you see about getting in shape fast, and losing 10 pounds in one day are just that — advertisements! Achieving real fitness and losing weight in a sustainable way takes new habits, time, and determination. Be gentle with yourself and find a way to love your new lifestyle. Because that’s what it takes: lifestyle.”
6. That extreme diets work.
“If someone is going to promise you you’ll lose two dress sizes in a week … they might as well say something equally as unrealistic as ‘and we’ll all be driving magical unicorns to work tomorrow!’
Is it possible to shrink two dress sizes in a week? Sure. But there’s no shot it will last long-term; and any protocol or modality it took to achieve that is nothing more than band-aid fix.”
—Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-founder Cressey Sports Performance
7. All you need is willpower and motivation to stay on track.
“My belief is that if you’re relying on motivation and willpower you will eventually fail. They can get you off the couch maybe, but it’s up to you to put into place the infrastructure for success (habits, social support, self-compassion) that will allow you to make sustainable change.”
8. Lifting weights will give you big, bulky muscles.
“It’s a misconception that weight training makes you bulky. It’s an awesome and challenging way to tone your muscles.”
9. Cardio is essential no matter what your goals are.
“Spending long periods of time doing … continuous, low-intensity cardio, can actually be counterproductive.
Alternatively, short bursts of high-intensity exercises (also known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT) have been shown to burn fat, and lots of it. Thirty minutes of HIIT is much more efficient and effective than an hour of steady state cardio. Less can be more!”
—Annie Mulgrew, director of programming CityRow
10. You should be able to see your results.
“Of course getting fit and losing weight are important and huge motivators, but in my experience, mood and energy changes are the most immediate and gratifying part of getting into shape.
Being in shape helps you in every aspect of your life — it helps you sleep better, boosts your energy throughout the day, and puts you in a better mood (endorphins are a beautiful thing, right, Elle Woods?).”
—Natalia Roberts, instructor, ((305)) Fitness
11. That rest might be good for you but it doesn’t contribute to #gainz.
“Rest is absolutely critical in achieving your fitness goals. Remember that training is all about breaking down muscles, while recovery is all about building them back up better and stronger.
When training demands exceed the body’s ability to recover, it can have negative effects in the form of injuries, plateauing, or even losses in strength and fitness.”
—Jill DeMarco, SLT Strengthen Lengthen Tone
12. You can pretty much eat whatever you want if you work out hard enough.
“Working out is 30% [of losing weight] while eating better is 70%. Keep that in mind and find a balance.”
—Alonzo Wilson, Tone House NYC
13. That you need to count calories.
“I find a lot of people look at the calories burned … and think that those are all extra calories to now splurge on more food … Focus less on numbers and [on] ‘rewarding’ yourself with food. Eat to fuel your body and work out to feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically.”
—Bethany Lyons, co-founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga
14. That getting stronger is all about how much you’re lifting.
“When gaining muscle, people worry about how much weight they’re lifting. Worry about form and properly training your body, then you can gradually add the weight. Keep to that mentality and you’ll be the boss of your #fitfam in no time!”
15. That every workout should be high-intensity.
“While the enthusiasm is great, being consistent, persistent, and smart about your training wins the race.
… Some people will jump into a new exercise program and want to lift ALL the weights immediately, and work out twice a day every day of the week … Consistent, persistent, smart training will help you avoid overtraining and give you better results.”
16. That diet and nutrition is all about the numbers.
“People are fixated on numbers, and misunderstanding these numbers can be damaging towards our journey. When it comes to diet, people think less calories means they will lose weight. Three hundred calories of raw almonds is more beneficial to your progress than a silly 100-calorie snack full of mystery ingredients.”
17. You need to work those abs for a better core.
“There is a common misconception in the fitness world about the core, and core strength. When asked about their core, most people immediately point to their midsection. Additionally, those same people will go to do abdominal exercises relentlessly to strengthen their ‘core,’ but all they are doing is creating a strength imbalance around their spine, and their lower back will become highly susceptible to injury.
The core actually exists from your neck and proceeds all the way down to include your glutes and hip flexors … With a balanced and strengthened core … you are much less at risk for injury when running around your daily life, and you are a lot stronger than most people.”
18. You should really stop eating carbs if you want to see results.
“Low-carb diets are only effective (and safe) for couch potatoes. Once you throw strength training, cardio or any type of sport into the mix, carbs become essential. Without them your workouts will suffer. You won’t perform as well or recover as effectively between training sessions.
Don’t believe the hype. If you want to look at perform your best, you need carbs.”
—Jason Ferruggia, fitness expert
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