The 15 Biggest Exercise Myths, Debunked by Science and Health Experts

It can be difficult to keep up a workout regime. New year’s resolutions are quickly set aside despite our best intentions. Our busy lives get in the way, and misconceptions about exercise don’t make things any easier.

There are many common myths about exercise that are getting in the way of our workouts or are impeding us from making the most out of the little time we do have to look after ourselves.

Here are some of the most common myths and a look at the science that debunked them.

Did you know, for example, that all of that stretching you’re doing to prevent injuries is for naught? Or that you should be ending your workout with cardio, not starting with it? And you probably believed that muscle weighs more than fat, right? Yes, the chances are high that you’re going about exercise all wrong—and these examples are just the tip of the iceberg! Read on to find out whether or not the so-called “truths” you’ve longed believed about exercise are actually backed by scientific studies and doctors. After that, you can start working out smarter—and more effectively—today!

Myth: Stretching prevents injuries.

stretching exercise myths

Fact: The thinking goes that loosening your muscles up pre-workout will make you nice and limber, thus minimizing the chance of any muscle tears or pulls, but a 2007 study published in the journal Research in Sports Medicine debunked that notion. The researchers from the University of Hull in England “concluded that static stretching was ineffective in reducing the incidence of exercise-related injury.”

Instead, to truly stay safe, you’ll want to do a warm-up exercise to increase blood flow to your muscles, which prepares them for the impending workout. In a 2018 study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, researchers noted that warm-ups “are performed for 5 to 15 minutes before engaging in the main exercise” in order to “lower the risk of injuries in the muscles and tendons.”

Myth: Fat can turn into muscle and muscle can turn into fat.

Couple Lifting Weights, look better after 40

Fact: You can burn fat and build muscle (sometimes even with the same routine!), just like you can gain fat and lose muscle. But make no mistake, fat and muscle are two different types of tissue, and you can’t turn one into the other. “The best analogy I can use is, you cannot turn an orange into an apple,” Brad Schoenfeld, an assistant professor of exercise science at the City University of New York’s Lehman College, told LiveScience.

Myth: You start losing muscle mass after just a week of inactivity.

woman bullied at gym

Fact: It may be true that, if you’ve just taken up a routine, taking time off can quickly eradicate your gains. But if you exercise regularly—several times per week for several months—it’ll take longer than seven days for your strength to evaporate. According to a 2007 study published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, for athletes, “strength performance in general is maintained for up to four weeks of inactivity.”

Myth: Doing more cardio means you’ll lose more weight.

Running with Friends {Healthy Habits}

Fact: Despite what you may think, spending hours on the treadmill isn’t the quickest way to shed those extra pounds. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat. So, to burn that pound of fat, you’ll need to burn 3,500 calories. And, according to a 2018 article in Runner’s World, the average person burns about 100 calories per mile of running. In other words, to burn one pound of fat, you’d have to run 35 miles, which is only a few miles shy of a marathon and a half!

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