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Fit in the OV: Setting the record straight on a few more fitness myths

Photo of Kevin Marts Community Center manager

Anyone who works in the fitness industry is subjected to a wide range falsehoods. Everyone has the best diet, the ultimate work out, the secret to eternal youth. Every magazine is touting some craze, and every movie or show propagates the myth even further. So once again I don my truth-seeking cape and fly head first into those statements you read on your social media feeds, hear around the water cooler, or are quoted at the family dinner table.

March 7, 2018

MYTH: I can target specific areas of my body and just tone my legs/arms/abs.
Sorry to break it to you, but there are two things wrong with this statement. First, your muscles are already toned. They might be hidden, but they are already in a tightly bound package. Working out might make them bigger, or more prominent, but not “more toned.”

Second, your body cannot burn fat from one specific area. You simply can’t tell yourself to burn stored energy from your arms, and not your legs. Losing body fat and weight is a whole-body experience, and any reduction will come from an overall loss of adipose tissue (fat), not from one “trouble area.”

MYTH: Lots of cardio is the best way to lose weight.
Turns out that not only is a combination of weights and cardio much better than just running, swimming, or Zumba dancing, but exercise isn’t even the biggest factor in your weight loss!

While exercise is a major component in a healthy lifestyle, weight loss is specifically influenced more by changes in your eating habits than in additional physical activity. If weight loss is your goal, make sure to target some specific eating habits and you’ll see much better results.

MYTH: Holding weights during cardio increases the benefits of exercise.
We’ve all seen that neighborhood walking group in their matching track suits, hats and holding those two-pound dumbbells in each hand as they pump their arms and assume they are doing more work than the person walking next to them without the additional weights. The reality is that those whopping four pounds of added weight don’t really add up to much more energy burn, and they can actually cause injuries to the wrist, elbow or shoulder. A better bet would be to ditch the weights and not worry about them while walking, and add some resistance weights in a traditional lifting regimen.

MYTH: Stretching is necessary before any exercise.
Like many of you, I grew up with coaches and others touting this as an absolute truth. As you can probably guess, many recent studies indicate that static stretching (the traditional deep stretch you hold for many seconds) can actually inhibit muscle growth and explosive potential.

A better idea would be to warm up with a few dynamic movements which get the muscles and adjoining elements ready for work. This will maintain the strength and potential of the muscle while simultaneously preventing injury, which was the original intent with stretching.

MYTH: Puzzles and games are the best thing for a mental workout.
Sorry dad, but those Sudoku puzzles and word jumbles pale in comparison to what good ol’ fashioned aerobic exercise can do for your brain. Turns out raising your heart rate, moving and sweating has a significant beneficial impact on your brain. A recent study by Harvard University states that exercise is as good for your brain as it is your heart. Maybe Sudoku while on the bike would be a bigger benefit to your health. Speaking of the brain…

MYTH: You only use 10% of your brain.
While this myth isn’t specific to fitness, the propagation of this idea is so widespread and has been debunked for so long, I have a hard time understanding why people still believe it. The 10% myth was even proven false by the Mythbusters themselves on their television show. Functional MRI scans, EEGs, PETs and electrode mapping of the brain have all shown that many activities use far more than 10%. Just like every activity doesn’t use every muscle in your body, every thought or action doesn’t use every aspect of your brain. However, over the course of the day or even a few activities, the vast majority of your brain has been used to solve the complexity we call life.

By Kevin Marts, Oro Valley Community Center manager - Explorer Newspaper, 3/7/18