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Common Exercise MythsCommon Exercise Myths


Common Exercise Myths

Science-based recommendations for exercise are constantly changing as new research is revealed. As a result, it's easy for old beliefs and unsupported claims to make their way to consumers. The best exercises are the ones you enjoy and do, so find a plan that works for you and watch out for these common exercise myths.

An effective workout requires special equipment.

Companies will try hard to convince you that you need the latest fitness product to ensure an effective workout, but this isn’t true. All you need is a quality pair of athletic shoes and clothing you can comfortably move in. If you want to invest more, consider a stop watch, hand weights and a mat for floor work. You can design an at-home circuit workout using your own body weight that is equally as effective as a workout you would get at the gym. Jogging, jumping and marching boost your heart rate, and your body weight can be used as resistance in many strength training exercises.

Only long workouts will improve your fitness.

You don’t have to put in hours of exercise each day to see results. Current research supports that shorter, high-intensity workouts can improve fitness, blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity. They can also reduce abdominal fat and total body weight.

To get results, alternate high and low intensity intervals for at least 20 minutes. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that the high-intensity intervals be performed at 80 to 90 percent of your max heart rate for 5 seconds to 8 minutes. Recover with intervals working at only 40 to 50 percent of your max heart rate. These workouts can be challenging so be sure to find a starting place that matches your current fitness level. Also incorporate lower intensity exercise at other times throughout the week to allow for adequate recovery.

Do cardio before strength training (or strength training before cardio).

Don’t get caught up on recommendations to perform either your cardiovascular exercise or your strength training first. There are valid, evidence-based arguments to support both sides, and many experts agree that it depends on your goals and your personal preference.

If you have a clear goal of improving your endurance or building strength, do the activities that support those goals first. Wearing out your muscles with a long cardio session before strength training could prevent you from lifting to your full potential, and vice versa. Otherwise, do what works best for you. You might find it wise to do what you like the least, first. This may prevent you from skipping out early and neglecting a beneficial activity that isn’t your favorite.

Exercise at the same time everyday.

Those who exercise in the morning are often more successful at sticking with a program because they get their workout in before other duties push exercise to the back burner. Others have success with lunchtime workouts, or evening gym sessions to unwind from a long day. The best time to exercise is a time that works for you and your schedule. While creating a habit by working out the same time each day can be helpful for some people, don’t let the necessity of a schedule get in the way of a workout. If you have to miss your morning workout, it’s not a reason to give up on exercise altogether. Squeeze in 20 minutes at lunch or after work.


Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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