You probably already know that it is important to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program. However, there are still many exercise facts and myths out there they may still deter you from embarking on your new fitness journey. For example, a long-held belief to whip your abs into shape is to simply do a bunch of crunches. Despite this widely held assumption, crunches are not the best way to get the flat belly you’re seeking. Read below for the right way to strengthen your core as well as several other myth-busting truths from Women’s Health:
- Fact or fiction: cardio burns more calories than strength training. Fiction—new studies show that strength training is superior to steady-state cardio in caloric burn. The other huge benefit to strength training is that it continues to boost your metabolism after your workout and also builds muscle that will increase your fat-burning potential after your cardio workouts.
- Fact or fiction: you can reduce cellulite through exercise. Fact—cottage cheese thighs affect everyone, including the fittest athletes. While exercise can’t prevent cellulite, it can help reduce the appearance of dimples. Since cellulite is fat, you can reduce is appearance by toning and maintaining a good diet.
- Fact or fiction: crunches are the best way to target flabby abs. Fiction—crunches aren’t very effective for one primary reason: most women initiate their crunches with their hip flexor muscles without engaging much of their core. This movement may get the surface muscles to strengthen, but does nothing to improve the deeper muscles underneath, which are also essential to a flat stomach. A better move for flat abs is to practice the Pilates move of the “plank” or “side plane”.
- Fact or fiction: exercise improves your ability to learn. Fact—it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. Several studies discovered that those who exercised right before attempting to learn had improved capabilities. Other studies also discovered that physical activity improves attention span and memory as well.
- Fact or fiction: the morning is the best time to exercise. Fiction—actually, the best time of the day to work out is between 4 and 6 p.m. since muscle strength and temperature peek at this time of day. Plus, if you’ve eaten breakfast and lunch, then you have fuel stored up. Additionally, your pain threshold and mental clarity are best at that time of day. However, the most important thing to do is pick a time of day to exercise that works for you and that you can stick with.
- Fact or fiction: running a marathon increases your risk of a heart attack. Fact—marathons do cause short-term damage to the heart, but not permanent damage. A May 2009 study form Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital and the University of Manitoba tracked 14 athletes that participated in the Manitoba Marathon, and all showed cardiac stress immediately after the race. After a week of rest, however, the runners’ hearts showed no long-term effects, and for most, heart function had returned to pre-marathon levels. The most important things to do if you’re new to marathon racing is to talk to your doctor beforehand and make sure to training appropriately before running the race.
- Fact or fiction: lift weights quickly to increase the burn. Fiction—actually, if you’re lifting weights quickly, you’re probably using more momentum than actual muscle to lift. Try lifting weights slowly and you’ll get more burn. The downside? Most people don’t have enough patience for a slow lift.
- Fact or fiction: always stretch before you run. Fiction—this is a hot-button issue in running circles. While “stretch before running” used to be the conventional wisdom, the belief is starting to shift thanks to several studies. For example, a review by epidemiologist Ian Shrier, M.D., of six stretching studies in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that none of the studies showed that stretching before exercise prevented injury. Furthermore, Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached more than 250,000 runners and no longer recommends a pre-run stretch because of the increase in injuries he’s seen from pre-run stretching.
- Fact or fiction: skinny people are always healthier than overweight people. Fiction—the key to good health is not just how you look, a.k.a. your weight. Instead, better indicators of good health are low blood pressure and cholesterol, and resting heart rate.