Think you know all the facts about getting fit? Exercise and nutrition scientist Kathleen Alleaume sorts the facts from the fiction when it comes to getting the most out of your exercise routine.
You have to exercise in the morning. Do as many sit-ups as you can to lose stomach fat! Messages like these have been around for so long that it’s easy to accept them as established ‘fact’. There really is a plethora of confusing, and often conflicting, information out there about exercise and how you should be doing it. This can make it hard to know how to get the most out of your workouts. Here, we dispel some of the most common myths about what’s really best when it comes to your fitness routine.
Myth 1: If the scales haven’t budged, you’re not making progress
Scales do not distinguish between weight that comes from body fat and weight that comes from muscle. When you begin to exercise (particularly resistance training such as weights), your muscle mass should start to increase and your body fat will start to decrease. How your clothes fit and your waist measurement are better measures of your progress than relying purely on the scales, because a kilo is a kilo, whether it’s made up of muscle or fat.
Myth 2: Doing sit-ups will banish belly fat
Spot reduction doesn’t work. Sit-ups are definitely great for strengthening your abdominal muscles and lower back, but they have no impact on the body fat stored in those areas. If you want to lose weight from your waist, you need to lose it all over your body. Moving is the key to making a difference between the energy you eat and the energy you burn each day, and therefore breaking down body fat. So, including aerobic or cardiovascular exercise is vital if you want to lose weight anywhere on your body. And while sit-ups won’t melt fat from your tummy, they will still help tighten the muscle under the fat, which makes them a worthwhile addition to your exercise routine.
Myth 3: Exercise will transform fat into muscle
Muscle and fat are completely different tissues. Exercise will burn body fat and build lean muscle, but there is no direct conversion between the two – one does not become the other. When you start exercising, your muscle mass will increase, which increases your metabolism as muscle cells burn more kilojoules than fat cells at rest. At the same time, you will reduce your body fat, making your fat cells smaller.
Myth 4: If you’re not working up a sweat, you’re not working hard enough
Sweating does not always indicate exertion. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling down. In fact, it’s still possible to burn a significant number of kilojoules without breaking a sweat, especially if you’re exercising in the cold, when your body has to do less to keep its temperature down. A better way of measuring your level of exertion is the ‘talk test’. If you try to hold a conversation while exercising and can still talk, but only just, then you’re working at the right intensity to safely improve your cardio fitness.
Myth 5: Morning is the best time to burn fat
There’s no single perfect time to exercise and the ‘best’ time to exercise varies from person to person. Cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, jogging, stair-climbing or cycling will burn energy and help you control your weight, no matter when you do it. For many people, exercising in the morning is best because they’re more likely to be distracted later on in the day. On the other hand, your body temperature is at its peak in the afternoon or early evening, so exercising at this time could lessen the risk of injury. Just remember that exercising too close to bedtime may interfere with sleep and may cause insomnia. The bottom line? It’s really about what’s best for you and your routine!
Myth 6: The best way to burn kilojoules is to exercise for longer at a lower intensity
The choice is yours – exercising for longer at a lower intensity will burn about the same amount of energy as a harder, but shorter session. Basically, the faster you walk, cycle or swim, the faster the kilojoules are burned. Apart from saving yourself time, the biggest bonus of training at a higher intensity is that your metabolism (which determines the ongoing rate at which your body continues to burn energy) is boosted so you continue to burn more kilojoules after your session. However, high-intensity exercise is difficult to sustain if you’re just beginning or returning to exercise, so start at a pace that’s comfortable for you. It is safer, and more practical, to start out at a lower intensity and work your way up to higher intensity workouts gradually.