Like many things in life, there's a lot of mythology surrounding the world of health and fitness. Everyone seems to be an expert when it comes to exercise, with confusing and contradictory advice common place. "No pain, no gain", "swimming after eating is dangerous", "exercise is worthless if not regular", and "you need supplements to build muscle" are just some of the tales doing the rounds at the local gym. Let's take a look at some of these myths and try to discern fact from fiction.
Questions and half-truths are much more common in the world of fitness than clear, concise advice. One pervasive myth is that you can't improve your fitness levels without feeling pain. While the "no pain, no gain" catch-cry might ring true when your crawling under barbed wire at a military-inspired boot camp session, this attitude can actually do more harm than good. Yes, it's important to push your limits if you want to build strength and endurance. Yes, discomfort is a natural part of this process. But no, you don't have to hurt yourself in order to get ahead.
By embracing pain, you are much more likely to cause an injury that could leave you on the sidelines for weeks. Fitness is all about slow, sustainable growth, with periods of high intensity followed by rest and recuperation. This is especially true for people just starting out, many of who push themselves too hard at the start of a fitness regime and end up either injuring themselves or feeling dejected. While vigorous exercise can save time when performed correctly, moderate exercise also has its place.
Another myth says that exercise is worthless if not performed regularly. While it's important to create a fitness routine if you can, the real truth is that every little bit helps. Don't put off that trip to the gym just because you know it will be another week until you go back. Don't put your running shoes away in the back of the cupboard just because you can't jog every day. While a regular fitness routine is always best, every little bit of exercise you perform is helping you develop better habits. Most people don't start off with a daily fitness routine, they start slowly and work their way up.
Newsflash - crunches are not the best way to develop flat abs. While crunches can play an important role in abdominal strength and weight loss training, they are not enough when performed in isolation. Crunches do not burn a lot of calories and do not help in any major way with weight loss. While they do tone a small area of your abs, cardiovascular exercise is a more effective way to lose stubborn tummy fat and distal trunk moves are more effective in training your entire abdominal core.
In other myth-busting facts, swimming is not dangerous after eating, supplements are not necessary for building muscle, exercise is generally more helpful for your joints than harmful, and more is not always better. Everyone has a different physiology and everyone is at a different stage of fitness, so more than anything, the best advice when it comes to fitness is to keep things simple and listen to your own body.