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5 Fitness Misconceptions You’ve Probably Been Told

Misinformation about fitness is floating around everywhere. It’s a huge industry, and tons of people try to take part in physically instructing people despite being unqualified (i.e., the hoards of Youtubers that give their followers unscientific advice). Even large companies use bogus claims about fitness to sell products that don’t actually help. Furthermore, there are many common phrasings surrounding exercise that are completely unfounded. Here are the top misconceptions that I hear about fitness, which you’ve probably heard as well.

Targeting Fat

Have you ever seen a commercial about some sort of exercise product that claimed to “attack” fat in a specific area? Commonly known as “spot reduction,” the process of eliminating fat from a particular body part through concentrated exercise does not actually exist. Spot reduction has been debunked by major studies, and it has been proven time and time again that the body metabolizes fat from anywhere in the body for fuel, even when only one area is being exercised.

Targeting Upper and Lower Abs

While we’re talking about bogus targeting tactics – let’s get into abs. There is a widespread misconception that there is a division between “upper abs” and “lower abs,” and people either do exercises like crunches or leg lifts depending on which one they are trying to strengthen. It turns out that there is no basis for this.

When people refer to “abs,” they’re usually referring to the rectus abdominis, though there are four groups of abdominal muscles. The rectus abdominis is the muscle that spans the anterior wall of the abdomen. It has tendinous inscriptions that separate it into subsections that are apparent on lean people – usually referred to as “six-packs.”

“Even though the entire [rectus abdominis] muscle will fire when it is activated,” according to the American Council on Exercise, “the inscriptions allow an even distribution of force across the muscle—and this is true even though more work is being done by either the [upper rectus abdominis] or the [lower rectus abdominis] on a given exercise.” Their studies found that no matter the type of exercise being done, there is equal muscle activity across the entire abdominal muscle. Therefore, it is impossible to work out your “upper abs” or “lower abs” without working out the other. 

Kristen Bryant-Medicine In Palm Of Hand
Kristen Bryant / Her Campus

I view vitamins as one of the biggest scams that currently exist in the health industry. Besides their worth being hugely exaggerated, they tend to be very pricy. Johns Hopkins researchers found that “multivitamins don’t reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, cognitive decline (such as memory loss and slowed-down thinking) or an early death.” Their studies advised that taking a pill is no substitute for leading a healthy lifestyle and that the benefits of taking vitamin supplements were nowhere near the benefits of following other nutrition recommendations.

One exception is that it may be beneficial for some women of childbearing potential to take an iron or folic acid supplement. Otherwise, every vitamin and mineral that your body needs to function and be healthy can be found in a healthy, balanced diet. 

Working Out Will Make You Bulky

The final common misconception that I’d like to address is one that I commonly hear, especially from young women, is that they don’t want to lift at the gym because they think it will make them “bulky.” While it is true that the best way to gain muscle is to lift heavy weights, the people who seek these types of gains also eat a high-calorie diet and progressively increase the weights that they lift for a very intentional effect of increasing their muscle size. It’s not easy, and it takes a long period of time.

Furthermore, males have a higher percentage of muscle in their body composition than females, so their muscles tend to be more visible in their physique. I encourage young women out there to let go of their fears of becoming “bulky” and to begin lifting weights (at a high volume but low intensity if they’re really worried about it). Doing so will improve several aspects of their health, such as strength, stamina, mood, bone density and joint function. 

Let’s put an end to these prevailing and pervasive misconceptions about fitness and health! The best way to take charge of your health is to listen to your body and be informed, and the best way to be informed is to do your research. I hope you continue your fitness journey with confidence and intentionality.

Hey Everyone- call me Sam! I am a Colorado transplant and senior Exercise Science student at Georgia State. Some of my passions include traveling, birds, reality television, and rock climbing.
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