Fitness Myths

Greek Gods, urban legends, fables and superheroes maintain their posts as literary monoliths. Whether one regards them as mystery, moral or myth, they are quite indubitably, a manner of objectification: for our pleasure and entertainment, in addition to something from which we learn. While the stories possess at their core a thread bearing resemblance to our real-life tapestry, we are typically keenly aware they are, in actual fact, stories.

A corner of literature that has no place for such entertainment is nonfiction, specifically in the health domain, yet daily clickbait lures us in, its non-research-based web content promising a quick fix, faster weight loss, a better physique but more realistically, a well of empty promises.

Alarmingly, fitness myths exist disguised as genuine certainty, manipulating data from studies and utilizing a modicum of truth to connect unrelated points. Posing an even greater risks is not the acceptance of some purported evidence by the general public, but belief by individuals in the medical community: “The promulgation of unsupported beliefs may yield poorly informed policy decisions, inaccurate clinical and public health recommendations, and an unproductive allocation of research resources and may divert attention away from useful, evidence-based information.” [1]

Some current myths in circulation include:

MYTH: You should stretch before exercising.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: Muscles need to warm up first. Stretching cold muscles might do absolutely nothing for you, or it might strain unready (unwilling) muscles and tendons.

WHAT IS TRUE: Stretching warm muscles, after a workout, can serve to benefit you – OR – you can begin with dynamic stretches.

MYTH: You need Gatorade if you’ve worked out. Also, that protein shake.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: There are simply too many variables. First, Gatorade was developed for college athletes enduring hours-long sessions in Florida heat. Second, while it is relatively true that some electrolytes are expelled through sweat during rigorous exercise, workouts lasting less than one hour are unlikely to deplete these stores or glycogen stores to the extent that a patented drink is needed. Thirdly, intensity and frequency are as important as the general health of the individual: if you have one running workout with several days or even weeks between, your body probably doesn’t need what will amount to mostly added calories. Finally – a word about those shakes your gym offers: it’s a money and calorie trap. Unless you are training professionally and working out for hours, your typical diet should be adequate. If it’s not, there’s a better way to replenish your stores and keep you healthy that do not include highly processed powders.

WHAT IS TRUE: Ultra-athletes, marathoners, triathletes and elite competitors can benefit from supplements like Gatorade, protein shakes, gels, etc.

MYTH: In order to get in shape I have to do something “extreme” like CrossFit.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: Firstly, CrossFit is user-specific: if you make it extreme (and, quite consequently, dangerous), then it will be. Secondly, CrossFit is <gasp!> circuit training and hardly new or unique – just branded for exposure and appeal. Thirdly, provided you find something motivating that you will commit to on a regular basis, something that encourages you to move but also pushes you and challenges you, you’re on a great path.

WHAT IS TRUE: Exercise is individual: whether it is something like CrossFit, or aerobics, or running or evening walking, you can get in “shape” whatever that means to you.

MYTH: Obesity is always genetic: you cannot change your predisposed condition.

WHY IT IS INACCURATE: “With a very good reason, obesity is said to be a complex and heterogeneous trait. Its genetics are extremely cumbersome, its environmental etiology multifaceted, and the interactions of these, mediated in part by the epigenetics, are enormously complicated. Further, the consequences of obesity vary, sometimes following and sometimes dissociating from the degree of overweight. A proportion of obese individuals even remain free of metabolical complications. This phenomenon, too, may be genetic, environmental, epigenetic, or all of the three.” [2]

WHAT IS TRUE: Both nature and nurture – genetics and environmental conditions – play a role in weight control. While there are some genetic conditions, or inherent medical conditions, that complicate whether or not a person can maintain a healthy weight, diet and exercise are positioned closer to the epicenter of that argument. Conversely, some individuals have genetic markers that put them at risk for obesity; thus, certain training exercises – specifically weight-bearing or strength training – may cause weight gain. Studies concerning this trait often cited diet as a key contributor to weight gain over the type of exercise, but noted that other forms of exercise might yield weight loss effects. (

More on Myths:

Exercise Myths:

Debunked Myths:

Gatorade Study:

Effects of Protein Shakes:

Smart Fitness:

CrossFit Myths Debunked:

The Genetics of Obesity:*~hmac=5a1acbe29d9dfc3d08bb88b8afdd7c06df0397436baa40bb316805ff0f0eb394

[1] Krista Casazza, Ph.D., R.D., Kevin R. Fontaine, Ph.D., Arne Astrup, M.D., Ph.D., Leann L. Birch, Ph.D., Andrew W. Brown, Ph.D., Michelle M. Bohan Brown, Ph.D., Nefertiti Durant, M.D., M.P.H., Gareth Dutton, Ph.D., E. Michael Foster, Ph.D., Steven B. Heymsfield, M.D., Kerry McIver, M.S., Tapan Mehta, M.S., Nir Menachemi, Ph.D., P.K. Newby, Sc.D., M.P.H., Russell Pate, Ph.D., Barbara J. Rolls, Ph.D., Bisakha Sen, Ph.D., Daniel L. Smith, Jr., Ph.D., Diana M. Thomas, Ph.D., and David B. Allison, Ph.D.. Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:446-454. January 31, 2013. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa1208051

[2] Kirsi H. Pietiläinen MD, PhD, MSc in Nutrition. Genetics and Epigenetics: Myths or Facts?

Date: 08 Oct 2013.


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