Debunking Exercise Myths

If you feel like you’re swimming in a sea of trendy exercise programs, join the (health) club. What began as simple aerobics classes years ago has evolved into Pilates, stepping, spinning and a host of other programs that seem to offer something for everyone. But what do you really need to do, exercise-wise, to stay healthy at any age? Let’s take a look at the myths and the realities of the exercise world.

Myth #1: The Perfect Exercise Program

Most exercise pros agree that the wider variety of programs and classes available now is a good thing—as long as you’re realistic about what to expect. The problem people run into is the hype that there’s a program that can work magic with little effort. It’s not so much the programs themselves are unrealistic; it’s the expectations that people are given about what the program can do for them.

Any one class or program that claims to do it all should be looked at with some skepticism. But generally speaking, most popular exercise programs have some merit for many people. And as long as you’re getting a variety of exercise, including aerobic, strength and stretching activities, you should be gaining fitness and health benefits.

Myth #2: One Size Fits All

It goes without saying that you should always check with your physician before beginning an exercise program, because not everyone can–or should–do every form of exercise. A doctor may steer novice and older exercisers away from high-impact aerobics such as jogging, step aerobics, and spinning, which can be too intense.

Sometimes someone will try a class that they’re really not ready for. The most common mistake is doing too much, too soon. Water exercise classes, on the other hand, can offer beneficial workouts for just about everyone. Even if you’re older, have a bad back, are overweight, etc., you can still get a really good workout. Sometimes people are apprehensive about water exercise because they don’t want to wear a bathing suit, but most classes will let you go in in shorts and a T-shirt.

Most exercise programs can be modified to be safe for people with medical problems, so always tell the instructor beforehand about any special health conditions you have.

Myth #3: Magical Machines

The experts are unanimous: Neither man nor machine can get rid of fat in only certain targeted areas. Any device that says if you do ab work you will get a thinner waistline, or that you will lose inches off your waistline, is a sham. You’re going to lose fat from wherever your body prefers to lose it from. For women, it will be harder to lose it in the breasts, buttocks and thighs. Certain exercises may tone some muscles underneath a targeted area so there are some shaping benefits, but you won’t lose weight only in that area because you’re doing a specific exercise.

And if you’re thinking that at least it would be easier to exercise via machine, think again. The elliptical trainer, for example, is an excellent machine but it won’t burn any more calories than a brisk walk or a slow jog would for the same amount of effort.

The magic is really what you do day after day, week after week, year after year.