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Common Misconceptions About Fitness

Like many people in today’s society, I am very passionate about fitness. As a student of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Personal Trainer’s program, I am very pleased by this growing trend of physical fitness. Just fifty years ago, the concept of bodybuilding was relatively new. Fitness pioneers, such as Joe Gold who opened the first Gold’s Gym in 1965, changed the path of fitness in modern society. As this knowledge grew—and continues to grow—it changed with the trends in society.

This is exceedingly important in today’s society, as obesity rates in America are dangerously high. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 36.5% of U.S. adults have obesity. The influence of social pressure to become invested in fitness are generally helping to build toward a healthier society with a greater life expectancy, but it is imperative that society is informed properly of certain truths about fitness.

As someone who close friends and family regard as having a general knowledge of fitness due to my own experiences, research, and studies, I am often asked for advice regarding healthy eating and exercise habits. Since I am studying to be a personal trainer, I find passion in helping others to achieve their goals. (Feel free to contact me with any questions via my Instagram page: @jessiemarie_fit. I would love to hear from you!) I frequently receive questions that demonstrate a misunderstanding of fitness in society. We are a society that is easily influenced by the latest Facebook post or Twitter trend, often believing every seemingly legitimate article we encounter. The truth of the matter is that these articles are not always fact based, nor are they always reinforced by education and research. I’ve found it important to resolve some reoccurring misled questions that I’ve received. Here are what I have found to be the most common misconceptions regarding fitness:

1. “You have to do hours of cardio daily to lose weight.”

This could not be farther from the truth! Cardio is a very useful tool to help when you eat too many calories for the day, or would like to increase your results. The human body uses a simple equation of caloric intake – calories output to equal fat loss. Say you eat 2,000 calories in one day and burn 2,500 calories that day. You will be in a state of caloric deficit, burning 500 calories for the day. Over time, this leads to fat loss. Now, say you consume 2,000 calories and burned 2,000 calories without doing any additional cardio, you can then use cardio to burn more calories, putting you in a caloric deficit. Personally, I do approximately 30 minutes of cardio each day because it keeps your heart healthy. That, and I really like food. By doing cardio each day, I can eat more calories for that day, without gaining fat. It is at your discretion how you use cardio to obtain your weight loss goals, but you do not need to spend excruciatingly long hours on a treadmill.

2. “You can do exercises to ‘tone up.’”

The whole concept of “toning” is a myth. This is caused by a simple misunderstanding of the thought process. People who want to “tone,” are not thinking of fat loss in the correct way. This idea is caused by building muscle underneath the fat, and then stripping away the fat to reveal the aforementioned muscle. By lifting weights and doing resistance exercises, muscle is built. By burning more calories than you are eating, the fat is lost, revealing the muscle.


3. “You can lose fat in one specific area.”

Again, this resorts back to the concept of “toning.” Fat is not something that can be targeted in specific areas through exercise. By simply eating fewer calories than you burn, your body loses fat universally. Doing dumbbell curls will not make your arms have less fat. Don’t get me wrong here—the calories you’re burning while doing those curls WILL contribute to your overall weight loss, but it will not specifically take fat off of your arms only. By lifting weights and training your body, you are building your muscle so that you can reveal it through fat loss.


4. “You have to practically starve yourself to lose weight.”

Too often, people tell me something to the effect of, “I’m on a new diet and all I’m eating is salad and I’m miserable.” There are so many issues with this statement. By eating so few calories, you put your body into starvation mode. Your body is very interesting in that it is always adapting to the situations in which you are under. When you lift weights, you grow muscle because your body is trying to survive. When you don’t drink enough water, your body retains water in case you need it because it is trying to survive. When you eat less, your body will stop burning as many calories because its primary goal is—yep, you guessed it—survival. When losing weight, you should always start slowly, losing between 1 and 2 pounds per week. Anything more than this is unhealthy, not to mention difficult to maintain. Since there are 3,500 calories in a pound, being in a caloric defect of 500 calories per day will help you to lose approximately 1 pound per week. That said, you should be eating plenty of food from all three macronutrient groups: protein, carbs, and fats. Eating just lettuce for weeks at a time will only malnourish your body and put you into starvation mode, slowing your fat loss substantially. As well as this, when your body adjusts to the fat loss and your weight loss plateaus, it is an effective tool to then decrease your caloric intake (and/or increase cardio!) slightly to trigger more weight loss. If you are not eating enough, this will be virtually impossible. It will make you miserable and malnourished, which can lead to serious illness. Make sure you’re eating enough. Your weight loss will actually increase, and you will be much more satisfied with food and your general happiness.


5. “Women should not lift weights because it will make them look ‘bulky.’”

I always hear this from women who are new to lifting weights. They timidly pick up five pound dumbbells, saying that they do not want to lift heavier, as they it will make them look, “like a man.” Lifting weights, however, does exactly the opposite. It helps you to build muscle, which can aid in achieving the highly sought after curvaceous body type. Women do not have enough natural testosterone to build muscle that is equivalent to that of men. There are testosterone supplements available, but without the addition of those, as well as a significantly increased caloric diet, this kind of muscle mass is virtually unrealistic. Instead, however, women who lift weights will burn more calories throughout the day because of the increase in lean muscle tissue, while obtaining their desired aesthetic look.


Now that you have a more conscious understanding of major premises regarding fitness, you have more tools to help you achieve your fitness goals. Fitness is not only important for the body, but also for the mind. Again, if you have any questions at all, be sure to contact me on Instagram: @jessiemarie_fit. Go achieve your goals!


Photos: 1, 2

Jessie is a sophomore at the University of Maine's Honors College. She studies sociology with a minor in ethics, and social and political philosophy. She is a sister of Alpha Phi Delta Nu, a member of The University of Maine's Hillel, the sociology club, the pre-law society, Sigma Alpha Pi Honor Society, NSCS, and interns for the U.S. Senator Susan Collins. In her free time, she enjoys being around her sorority sisters, spending time with her boyfriend, writing, working out, and traveling.
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