fitness myths

5 Fitness Myths Debunked

fitness myths(even this fortune is a fitness myth)

Fitness Myths ABound

The fitness industry is responsible for a great deal of harmful, often incorrect messaging about physical activity. This information – and in many cases misinformation – can result in individuals developing an unhealthy relationship with exercise and may actually contribute to folks avoiding exercise or not wanting to pursue their movement goals. Below are five fitness myths we’ve seen in wide circulation.

Five common fitness myths

1) Myth: “There is no bad workout.”
     Fact: There are plenty of harmful workouts, including:
  • Workouts when you attack or criticize yourself for not performing up to part or for not appearing the way you’d like
  • Workouts when you push yourself beyond your limits because you’re trying to punish yourself for some perceived transgression
  • Workouts when you force yourself to move despite being sick or tired or both
  • Workouts when you power through pain (see below) or injury
  • Workouts that interfere with work, connection, or living a balanced life
  • Workouts performed to compensate for what you ate (this is a slippery slope toward disordered eating)
  • Workouts in which you are abusing vs. caring for yourself
  • Workouts you don’t enjoy or are counting the minutes to get through
  • Workouts that actually increase stress, anxiety, and guilt
  • Workouts that are compulsive
  • Workouts, like all of these, that paradoxically detract from your overall health and well-being

I recently came across the following: “Definition of a good workout: When you hate doing it, but you love finishing it.” This simply isn’t true. A workout can be, and hopefully is, enjoyable! The idea that exercise must be miserable in order to be valuable interferes with us trusting and respecting our bodies enough to move them in ways that are helpful and healing. A miserable workout is a damaging workout, as the associated stress interferes with the health-enhancing properties of movement, promotes body mistrust, and can lead to poor adherence over time (not many people adhere to activities that are misery-inducing). In fact, one study found that those who enjoyed a specific type of physical activity were more likely to stick with it over time. This, of course, makes sense.

2) Myth: “No pain, no gain.”
     Fact: Pain is problematic; fitness gains can occur without pain.

You’ve probably heard this one before. Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Maybe you believe, as Jay Culter says, “What hurts you today makes you stronger tomorrow.” Not so. Pain is a signal from your body that something is wrong. If we ignore it, we might do long-term damage. Also, think about all of the movement that is effective at improving our physical and mental health but doesn’t result in pain. While some might experience a state of discomfort at times as they challenge themselves physically, pain is problematic. And pain isn’t necessary for progress. Workouts can be effective without any pain required. 

3) Myth: There’s no “partial credit” for exercise.
     Fact: Any and all movement counts.

Many individuals don’t exercise in general or on a given day because they have a black-and-white mentality about physical activity. Not enough time for the full class or miles-long run? They’ll just sit it out. But here’s the thing: any movement counts. Even brief exercise sessions can elevate our mood and improve our health and well-being. Rather than thinking of things in all-or-nothing terms, remind your self that everything “counts.”

4) Myth: You can gauge someone’s fitness status by looking at them.
     Fact: Appearance is not a proxy for fitness.

You cannot tell how fit someone is by looking at them, and weight is not a fitness metric. Fitness is composed of several variables, including cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. There are people who are thin and sedentary and people who are fat and fit. Big Fat Lies, written by exercise physiologist Dr. Glenn Gaesser, does a good job at uncoupling fitness and weight. Appearance (and specifically weight) isn’t a proxy for fitness. Check out the work of Ragen Chastain for more on this idea.

5) Myth: “Strong body = strong mind”
     Fact: These two concepts can occur independently.

The Buddha says, “To keep the body in good health is a duty. . . otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” The Buddha’s an interesting one to challenge, but we believe that fitness is a privilege, not a duty, and that we’re able to have strong minds without strong bodies and vice versa. That person who is tired, under-resourced, or disabled? That doesn’t mean she lacks character. The one who exercises compulsively to the point of poor life balance? We wouldn’t call that mental health.

The takeaway

Please join us in challenging these fitness myths and others you might encounter. Physical activity can be an important part of our lives and can contribute positively to our physical and mental health. Buying into harmful fitness industry messaging runs the significant risk of compromising the many benefits associated with moving our bodies. Here’s our bottom line: Move with peace, move with intention, and move with joy. If you want to work on developing a healthy (or healthier) relationship with exercises, contact us to get started.

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