When starting an exercise program, how do you know if the advice well-meaning friends are giving you is accurate or not?
We asked several fitness experts to help us debunk some common fitness myths…
— By Neena Satija, Globe Correspondent; Elizabeth Comeau, Boston.com staff
Myth 1: Hydration is everything
“I don’t care how much more Gatorade you swallow in the summer,’’ says Amby Burfoot, a running coach who won the Boston Marathon in 1968. “It’s not going to change your performance.’’
Burfoot says a lot of runners have the misconception that if you’re not feeling up to par during a run, you must be dehydrated. “Maybe you’re too hot,’’ he offers. “Maybe you’re having a bad day.’’ Maybe you haven’t eaten enough carbohydrates or gotten enough sleep. Hydration is definitely important, says Burfoot – but it isn’t everything. “Hydration is not going to let you go out and do a great three-hour run in July.’’
Myth 2: The more you sweat, the more you’ll lose
When you sweat, “all you’re doing is losing water,’’ says Larry Kenny, a professor of physiology at Pennsylvania State University and former president of the American College of Sports Medicine. If you’re losing a lot of weight while exercising in the summer, there’s a good chance it’s simply because you’re getting dehydrated.
Myth 3: If you’re not sweating, you’re not working hard
Sweating isn’t an indicator of how hard you’re working– just how much water you’re losing. You might not sweat during an hour-long walk, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting a good workout.
Myth 4: The 10 percent rule
The “10 percent rule’’ has been one of the most pervasive exercise myths – with no real scientific evidence to back it up. The rule states that you should increase your running mileage no more than 10 percent a week. Recently, researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands may have finally disproven it: In a study of 532 novice runners, they found that training with the 10 percent rule resulted in the same rate of injury as training without it.
Myth 5: Stretching before exercise prevents injuries
In a study of more than 2,700 runners, researchers at George Washington University and the USA Track and Field Association found that stretching for three to five minutes before exercising didn’t result in lower rates of injury. In both groups of runners – those who stretched and those who didn’t stretch – the injury rate was about 16 percent over a period of three months.
Myth 6: You can spot tone a certain area you want to work on
According to Michael Lagomarsine, head of strength and conditioning at Boston University’s Athletic Enhancement Center, spot toning is not possible when it comes to weight loss. So, he said, doing extra crunches to lose the love handles around your stomach will not work effectively. He said that what exercisers need to understand is that their question of toning generally refers to decreasing the amount of fat in an area. The best technique for fat loss is primarily cardiovascular exercise. The body is non-biased when it comes to burning fat. When you are performing cardiovascular exercise, your body is using fats from all different stores. Therefore, there is no way of asking your body to use the fat stores in your gut while you are on the elliptical today.
Myth 8: No Pain, no gain
Lagomarsine said that pain is never a good thing when it comes to your body. Generally, we try to avoid pain as much as possible so it makes sense that we should not feel pain when exercising, he said. He defines pain as hitting my thumb with a hammer or injuring my back from lifting a heavy box. For beginner exercisers, the “pain’’ concept is actually “discomfort’’; there is a big difference between the two. Discomfort is the feeling you get when taking a person out of their comfortable range.