Today is National Fitness Day, which probably doesn’t even really mean anything because there appears to be some sort of “National” holiday every single day. But I digress. It’s (maybe) National Fitness Day, and that made me think about fitness, and how everyone feels about it, which led to me thinking about the fitness myths that so many people dangerously believe.
I am not the most athletic or fit person you’ll ever meet, but I like to think that I’m pretty fitness-conscious. I try to work out at least twice a week, whether I’m doing SoulCycle, going for a run, going on a bike ride or walk, or lifting weights. I try to do yoga every day. I like to try new exercises to shake things up once in a while. I eat healthy because I have to or my body turns on me (I have a lot of chronic stomach issues). I’m at a healthy weight right now and I’m feeling okay about my body most of the time. Also, I genuinely like to work out – I don’t only do it to lose weight. I do it to feel good.
But I wasn’t always this way. Throughout high school and most of college, I believed a lot of the below fitness myths that were actually putting me in danger. I had so many unhealthy attitudes towards exercise and food. I tried one fad diet after another. I attempted cleanses. I binged. I worked out and wasted money on expensive gyms and trainers with the sole goal being to lose weight. I went on the scale every single week. I hated how I looked. I was miserable a lot. And the myths I believed about fitness weren’t helping.
I, unfortunately, know a lot of young women who are the way I used to be. So, I spend a decent amount of time debunking myths and trying not to seem condescending because I really want these young women to get to where I am today – not obsessed with losing weight, more focused on being healthy. So, here are 12 fitness myths that absolutely aren’t true. These will prove that you are probably doing a lot better than you think. And we could all use that kind of positivity once in a while.
You Have To Work Out At Certain TimesI feel like every few months, a new study comes out saying when you should be working out. One time researchers say that exercising in the morning is the best. The next, they're saying that the evening is actually better. Then it goes back to the morning. Then one study says actually it probably doesn't matter. Then it goes back to some other time. It's so confusing! The truth is, I honestly don't think it matters. I'm not a scientist, I'm not a doctor, I'm not a researcher, but I have heard from multiple fitness experts and trainers that the time you work out is not the most important thing. They've said that you should work out when it works for you. For example, I know a lot of people who like to work out early, before their day starts. Everyone encourages you to do that, so I tried it. It was horrible for me. I couldn't get through a decent workout and ended up missing more than I actually did it. I work out in the evening, before dinner. It's weird to a lot of people, but it works for me, and that's all that matters. Source: iStock
All Fitspo Is BadLook, fitspo can really suck. It can be very shamey, demoralizing, and mean. But believe it or not, it's not ALL bad. When fitspo is inspiring and motivational, the way it should be, it can be helpful. It's encouraging sometimes. I have a secret Instagram account where I follow only fitspo accounts. I only follow accounts that are realistic and not pushy. It's really encouraging for me, and often gives me motivation when I need it. If fitspo is horrible to you, then by all means, ignore it. But don't feel like a monster if it works for you.
You Have To Exercise Every DayYou do not need to work out every single day. In fact, you shouldn't, because that's not good for you. Your body needs rest days where it can cool down and relax. Your body has to recover in order for you to keep pushing it. If you don't give it time to recover, you can really hurt yourself. If you just started working out, try to get in a session three times a week, and make your rest day every other day. That said, you don't HAVE to work out three or four days every single week either. We all have weeks that are too busy for a workout (yes, fitspo, it happens). We also have weeks where we just want to be lazy. It's okay! Source: iStock
You Have To Exercise For At Least 45 MinutesI see a lot of studies come out on exercise time - so many that it can be confusing. According to most fitness experts, the optimal workout time is 25-30 minutes. This amount of time is just difficult enough without sending your body into overdrive. Some experts argue against going over 30 minutes at all. You CAN do a nice 45 minutes workout if you want to, but you certainly don't have to. Strive for 25, especially as a beginner. Oh, and one more note: if you know you can only work out once that week, don't be like "okay, I need to exercise for at least an hour to make up for lost time this week." It doesn't work that way. If you're used to 30 minute workouts, your body will get exhausted after that time. You won't work as hard for that hour, so it's essentially pointless. Source: iStock
Counting Calories WorksI feel like this is one of the worst myths out there. Counting calories is not the way to live, and it's not your ticket to losing weight. I get the idea behind it - you should be eating a certain number of calories a day - but put into practice without rules or exceptions, it doesn't work. Here's the thing: you could count calories and say that you made your goal of 1200 for the day by eating five packets of 100-calorie snacks and then a hamburger (just an example). Sure, you ate the right amount of calories. But did you eat anything good for your body or remotely nutritious? Doubtful. It's more important to focus on the quality of your food rather than the calories. Brown rice might be more calories than white rice, but it has more fiber and more nutrients, and so it's better for you. A piece of fruit might have more sugar and calories than a 100-calorie pack of Oreos, but fruit has nutrients and natural sugar, while those Oreos have no nutrients and fake sugar. Get it? Source: iStock
If You're Not In Pain, You Didn't Work EnoughThe "no pain no gain" quote everyone uses? Yeah, it's not really true. Your workout still counts even if you aren't having trouble walking. You actually should never be in pain during or after a workout. You may feel sore, and that's okay, but actual pain is a sign that you're doing something wrong and could seriously injure yourself.
If You Don't See Results, You're Doing It WrongExercise should never be just about losing weight. Because, one, exercise alone will not help you lose weight. And two, that's not a healthy way to look at it. Exercise is about so much more than weight loss. It's about getting rid of stress, feeling relaxed, keeping your body strong, preventing illnesses, making you happier... the list goes on. So you didn't drop a dress size in the last few months since you discovered you love Spin class. So what? If you found an exercise you love and you do it regularly, that's SO good for you. Source: iStock
You Need Special FoodsI'm sure you've seen all the special bars and snacks and protein powders out there. People may try to sell them to you as if they'll speed up results or something. These things are expensive, and you don't need them. See this image of Quest bars? Sure, they have a ton of protein and are relatively natural and it's great to have those after you work out. But they're also full of sugar and not the healthiest thing you could eat - and they're pricey. You're better off with something you can make yourself.
Spot Training WorksMaybe you're one of those girls who is like, "I'm okay with my arms, but I really want to tone my legs and butt." So, you do all these special exercise to target your legs, and you ignore your arms and any other part of your body. Is this going to work? Not really, because spot training is not a thing. It doesn't work, and it often results in you over-working one part of your body until it's at the point where it could be easily injured. Sure, you can have leg day - as long as you have upper body day next. Source: iStock
It's All About Dat CardioCardio is great. It gets your heart pumping, makes you sweat so you feel like you're doing big things, and can result in lots of happy endorphins. But exercise is not all about cardio. A good fitness routine incorporates cardio, weight training, and less high-intensity things like yoga or Pilates. Don't beat yourself up if you don't do a ton of cardio. You're probably fine. Source: iStock
Carbs Are The EnemyI'm so sick of people assuming all carbs are bad. They're not! In fact, eating the right amount of carbs is really important before a workout. Carbs give your body energy as they break down. They help you have more power while exercising. They also taste good. So please eat them. Source: iStock
It's All About Losing WeightI swear, the second you stop thinking about exercise as your path to weight loss, you will start enjoying it more. I used to hear this and roll my eyes, but it's true. When you think of exercise as something you have to do to lose weight, it makes exercise seem like a chore. When you think of it as something you enjoy, it's much more relaxing. Personal example: I started running because I wanted a reason to be outside on chilly late winter days after sitting in an office all day. I love to be outside. So I started walking, then running a little, then mainly running. For me, it's about nature, not weight loss! I also started yoga as a stress reliever - and I was shocked when I noticed it started making me more toned. I do SoulCycle because it relaxes me after a hard day. I enjoy all of these things and don't associate them with weight loss. And my view on fitness has been SO much better since I started that. Source: iStock
What are your thoughts on these fitness myths? What did we forget? Tell us in the comments!