New year, new dizzying streams of fitness counsel.
“Now that it’s January, a lot of people who may not have prior knowledge are getting into fitness,” says Robert Dodds, C.P.T. “Unfortunately, this means a lot of people will fall for fitness claims that are nothing more than pieces of marketing designed to get signups and to sell pieces of equipment that won’t give you the results you’re after.” Not you though. Right? Right.
As Sonya Zappone, R.Y.T., an author, registered yoga teacher and certified meditation instructor, puts it, don’t listen to everyone. Listen to your body this year, and make it your mission to ditch these bad fitness tips that aren’t worth following.
1. Avoid Lifting weights if You Don’t Want to gain weight
Let’s get this one out of the way first. “There is no form of exercise that will be the sole cause of weight gain. The only way to gain weight is for your daily caloric intake to exceed your daily caloric expenditure,” offers Bianca Grover, C.P.T., a certified personal trainer and ACSM Exercise Physiologist, who hosts the Fit Not Fad podcast. “In plain English, you must eat more calories than you are burning. In fact — because larger muscles burn more calories — lifting weights is a great way to increase your metabolism, resulting in easier and more sustainable weight loss.”
2. You have to Be Obsessed with working out to Get Results
If you think you have to always love breaking a sweat to stick with it, it’s time to shed that notion. “The new year is upon us. Not all of us enjoy working out and even the best of us get into fitness ruts,” notes Zappone. “You know that your body needs to move. It’s essential. You also know that your motivation wanes and enthusiasm is limited as there are daylight hours.”
That’s why Zappone urges people to refrain from beating themselves up over not relishing every second of a workout or skipping them from time to time. Instead, she advises finding forms of exercise that are interesting (even if you don’t love it, the novelty of a workout may keep you motivated to make it through) or doing exercise that doesn’t really feel like exercise, such as walking outdoors in nature and then perhaps finding a secluded spot to practice some yoga.
3. You should stop All exercise if you have chronic pain
Of course, always talk with your doctor or trusted healthcare professional about what’s best for your personal situation, but in general, this is a myth. “If you have chronic pain, it is normal to think that you should avoid exercise completely. Most fitness professionals who do not have experience in orthopedic exercise or functional training might even default to that,” says Grover, adding that this is often the wrong strategy. “Chronic pain, which lasts longer than six months and continues even after the injury or illness seems to have been resolved, can be on and off or ongoing; you feel achy, and it persists. These pains are commonly caused by muscle imbalances and lack of stability.”
In reality, certain types of chronic pain can actually be improved or even relieved through proper stretches and exercises, she says, pointing to this research.
4. Do Exercises Targeting Specific Body Parts To Reduce Fat
Ever read a magazine headline like “10 core workouts for flat abs” or see something on social media that proclaims “These 5 moves will give you a slim waistline”? Well, don’t take those statements at face value, friends.
“The truth is that there are no exercises you can do to target body fat on a specific part of your body,” says Dodd. “You lose fat by being in a calorie deficit. This means burning more calories than you take in on a daily basis. Stay in a calorie deficit for long enough, and you’ll notice the results,” he continues, adding that exercise helps because it increases the number of calories you burn, but if you still eat too much it won’t result in fat loss.
In reality, exercises for specific parts of the body are going to help you build muscle, not reduce fat. “That may improve the look of fat in that area because subcutaneous fat is closer to the skin than muscle, therefore goes over and surrounds the muscle,” explains Dodd. “If you have more muscle, the fat will have to spread out more to cover it, which will make it appear like there’s less fat in that area,” he elaborates, referencing this study that followed 40 overweight women for 12 weeks who performed resistance training exercises for their abdominals, which at the conclusion of the study revealed results indicating the exercises had no effect on abdominal fat:
5. Only lift heavy weights If You Want to gain muscle
Nope. You can get fit with lighter weights, too. “Another common piece of advice that is not supported by the scientific evidence, is that you need to lift heavy weights to gain muscle. This is actually not true. This study found that there is no difference in muscular hypertrophy when using light loads or heavy loads, provided that these loads are lifted to failure,” said Dodds. ”Lifting heavy weights requires strength and muscle, which can be gained through training with light loads. However, it is also a skill, so if your goal is to lift the most amount of weight, then you need to practice that specific skill as well as get stronger.” If you want to pack on muscle, try these tips instead of beelining to the heavier dumbbells on the weight rack.
6. Work Out Longer to lose weight
Another version of this incorrect advice: “You need to work out for any length of time to lose weight.” As Pam Sherman, C.P.T. a certified personal trainer and author, says, working out has very little to do with weight loss. Sherman thinks this concept is perhaps best summed up by what Herman Pontzer writes in his new book, Burn: New Research Blows the Lid Off How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy: “Your daily activity level has almost no bearing on the number of calories you burn and burning more energy doesn’t protect against getting fat.”
7. There’s only one perfect workout for you
Just like there’s no perfect diet, this one-size-fits-all approach to fitness is completely wrong. “There is no perfect workout for everyone. Please don’t fall for a claim that ‘[insert trendy workout] is all you need!’” Your cousin may have lost 50 pounds doing hot yoga, whereas 30 seconds in a hot room may cause you to never put on workout gear again. Likewise, just because your college roommate loves HIIT doesn’t mean getting sucked into a YouTube vortex of HIIT videos will be your thing.
One thing that is magic, however? Committing to sticking to a fitness routine. Here’s to being our healthiest selves in the new year.