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  • Writer's pictureChuck Johns

11 Fitness Myths That Are Harmful to Your Health

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

These days everyone and their mother seems to be super into fitness; certainly, a far cry from yesteryear when the gym buff stereotypes were extremely limited and when working out was seen as a hobby only pursued by a small, body-image-obsessed portion of the population. The last few decades have seen a significant shift toward people integrating health and fitness into their daily routines and priorities as a matter of course, which is quite inspiring and exciting. It seems everyone we know knows five more people who have made time for yoga, weights, or jogging, and is watching what they eat more carefully.

With this increased participation comes a community feels that just makes it all the more exciting and inviting for others to join in. However, with such a ballooning culture comes the risk of the spread of rumors and trends that aren't always based in fact or participants' best interests. It's always great to be among fellows and peers in seeking such a noble pursuit as one's health and fitness, but it may be even better to keep these fitness myths in mind to avoid putting your health in danger at the hands of well-meaning but misinformed friends.

1. For the brain, the best exercises are crosswords, brain teasers, and puzzles. It seems intuitive and even logical to separate physical, strenuous exercise from mental exercise, but while these puzzles and the like are undoubtedly beneficial for mental sharpness, there are other ways of putting your brain through its physical paces. Workouts that get the blood pumping are even better for the brain than hours of puzzles -- this is why sports are an integral part of improving memory retention and also fighting off dementia.

2. You can take a few weeks off from working out and still be in shape. Even a single week can already cause muscle tone to drop, and the momentum gained from all that work can fade away just as fast (More at Likewise, the sluggishness and lack of drive that creeps in before long are sure to be a bigger problem.

3. Long-distance running is the only running worth doing. While it takes the right amount of movement before calorie burning really begins in earnest, people benefit from short-distance runs and not just long-distance marathon runs. For some people, walking is an even better exercise, as the cardiovascular system can adapt to the workout it is put through.

4. Backaches can be done away with through yoga. It really depends on the nature and root of the ache. If the pain you're feeling is muscle pain, then yoga can contribute to stretching that will make the muscles more supple and less knotty. But hernias or protrusions or similarly severe problems won't be solved by yoga, and in fact, can be exacerbated by it.

5. Demanding workouts will make you hungry. Interestingly, the opposite is what is true: a proper workout will slow down the production of ghrelin, the hormone that triggers hunger, and increases the production of leptin.

6. Only dairy products will give your body the calcium it needs. Don't scoff when people point out that spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of calcium -- they are, even though they really don't have anything to do with milk otherwise. The lactose intolerant have plenty of other sources for this bone-strengthening mineral (more at

7. Energy drinks are great for rehydrating. This myth is a commercial tagline in spades, and yes, it's a myth. "Energy drink" is arguably another term for "sugar water," and there are significant levels of sodium in some as well. Just go with regular water, and use good food to replenish your energy rather than relying on liquid sugar.

8. Running is bad for knees and ankles. While the risk of injury or wear goes up the heavier you are, there's actually no research that establishes that running does damage to these crucial joints. Conversely, running can strengthen the legs, making you less susceptible to injuries in those areas.

9. Morning workouts are best. There are indeed many advantages to these, but listen to your body -- when you're ready to exercise, that's the best time to go do it. Not everyone benefits the same way or even optimally when working out in the morning. The significant thing? Consistency.

10. If you don't have any oatmeal, protein bars are the same thing. They're really not, and may, in fact, be far less useful for you. Protein bars are processed foods, and that label carries with it a lot of necessary caveats on its own. Aside from this, because they're processed, they don't require as many calories for the body to digest and process them, and this among other reasons makes protein bars a decent snack but an inferior substitute for oatmeal.

11. Treadmills are superior to parks. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with preferring a treadmill -- or going with that if you really don't have any access to decent outdoor walking and running spaces -- there's actually a significant difference in jogging the same distance on a machine and in the fresh air. Believe it or not, jogging with average outdoor wind resistance works for a fundamental muscle group, leading to 10% more calories burned than would otherwise be done on a treadmill!



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