MYTH: Sit-ups are the best way to a flat tummy.
REALITY: Stop! Firstly, lots of sit-ups or crunches alone won’t tone a flabby belly – you need to combine any exercise with an overall weight-loss programme: eat a balanced diet and take regular varied exercise.
Sit-ups target the most superficial ‘six-pack’ core muscles, but too many of these will cause the tummy to bulge out, leading to a pot belly.
If you perform a dynamic movement such as a walking lunge while rotating the top half of your body at the same time, you target all the abdominal muscles as well as other large muscle groups that burn more calories and body fat – it is these kinds of moves that will help give you the tummy of your dreams.
Sports and exercise that are great for this include yoga, Pilates and even golf. Many dancers and gymnasts have fantastic flat midriffs due to the varied movements that they perform, rather than as a result of sit-ups.
MYTH: Reading will keep you entertained while you are doing a work-out.
REALITY: You may be entertained but doing this will ruin your posture, increasing the potential for injury, and will also probably distract you from working as hard as you need to. Rather than reading, listen to some music or watch a television screen.
MYTH: Weights are just for bodybuilders.
REALITY: Wrong, wrong, wrong. I know the weights area of a gym may be a little intimidating – with all those muscle-bound men heaving and straining, – but muscular strength and endurance are incredibly important for women too to keep the bones and joints strong.
Use weights that you can easily lift 15 to 20 times before starting to feel exhausted – this will tone and strengthen without building bulk.
MYTH:I go running three times a week for an hour, and that means I must be fit.
REALITY: If you run three times a week, your body will be fit for running. This does not mean you will be able to jump into any other activity.
Your cardiovascular system will be strong but it is recommended that some kind of weight-bearing exercise is performed two to three times a week.
MYTH: The longer and harder my exercise sessions are, the more weight I will lose.
REALITY: If you exercise hard for a long time, the body starts producing excessive amounts of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which begin to break down muscle tissue. It is very important that after you exercise intensely you rest your body for at least a day and eat well to aid recovery.
High-intensity exercise is good for heart health, but not effective for fat loss. Studies have shown the best way to burn fat is by carrying out moderate to light-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming or tennis. You should be a bit out of breath but still able to hold a conversation for the duration of a 45-minute session.
All too often, people spend hours in the gym, which is not necessary when compared to their goals. Exercise at a higher intensity for a shorter period and you will gain similar results in less time.
MYTH: Doing stretches after exercise is pointless.
REALITY: Stretching is a much debated topic. There are mixed opinions in studies on whether one should stretch either before or after a workout. However, it is safe to say that stretching after exercise is a good idea.
Don’t overdo it: Working out for longer and harder does not mean you will lose weight faster
When we use a particular muscle group a lot – for instance, thighs and calves during running – some of the fibres can become stuck in a tensed state.
Stretching at the end of a workout session is beneficial as it returns the muscles back to the pre-exercise length. This prevents them from shortening over time.
If muscles are short and tight, it can create imbalances in the body which raise the risk of injury – especially if you do a lot of exercise and never stretch – as the effect can be cumulative. Stretching pulls muscles back to their pre-exercise length, helping to minimise longterm problems.
MYTH: If I follow a celebrity’s diet and fitness regime, I will eventually look just like them.
REALITY: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no amount of either exercise or dieting will give you someone else’s figure. It is possible to change your shape to a certain extent, but remember that our genetic make-up has a big part to play in our overall body type. Don’t expect your work-outs to give you the figure of a J-Lo or Kylie.
Keep your exercise and diet regime healthy and make the most of what you have.
MYTH: I exercise regularly, and so I can eat what I like.
REALITY: Exercise goes hand in hand with diet and lifestyle. It can burn energy which would normally be stored as fat, help tone the muscles and it is good for the heart.
It is important to work to the required exercise intensity for a certain amount of time to burn the required calories. The lesson is as simple as: burn more than you consume and you will lose weight, consume more than you burn and you will gain weight.
Therefore, if you are exercising a lot but eating and drinking more energy than you have burnt, you will gain weight.
It is important to vary your routine, keep your body guessing and factor in rest and recovery to continue to see results.