There are so many myths surrounding fitness and exercise.  Not surprising, since fitness started as a "Pied Piper" style of working out, following stories more than science.  Military training simulated the demands of combat, weight training followed workouts of historic strongmen and aerobics classes were led by celebrities versus exercise specialists.  

Most of myths have some grain of truth responsible for them starting and sticking around.  Now that we have more research and knowledge, however, we can clear up the fuzzy parts to make training more efficient and debunk ones that just aren't true.

Here are 5 of our favourites gathered from questions from viewers and participants.

Myth #1:  If you're not sweating, you're not working hard enough

FACT:  Sweating is more a fact of physiology than a factor in a grueling workout!

When your core temperature starts to heat up, sweating is your body's attempt to release heat through pores.  It's a side effect of your workout, but there are more variables at play than exercise exertion.   

The environment plays a big role -- inside or out.  If you're exercising outdoors when it's hot but in the shade or wind, you may not feel the heat or sweat as much.  Using sweat can be a dangerous benchmark here as you could push yourself well past your maximum heart rate and/or increase risk.  If working out inside, the ventilation of the room is going to influence how much you sweat on both sides of the spectrum.  A cycle or hot yoga studio can leave you feeling sweaty and without even getting close to your target training zones.

Other factors that influence the sense of intensity include sleep, hydration, fuel and stress.  How much you sweat also varies individually.  If you feel like you do sweat easily, you can simply claim having an efficient natural cooling system!  

Myth #2:  Machines are safer than free weights

FACT:  Machines can help build confidence but may not always be the safest choice.

When you first walk into a gym, machines may be a good place to start as they do help guide you through a typical range of motion for an exercise.   They also often limit the range and offer safety bars or catches.

Machines put you in the correct exercise position only if they are adjusted properly.  Much like an office chair, newer gym equipment offers more adjustments to customize for your body, but they are still limited.  Free weight exercises require more core stabilization and can be easily modified to fit an individual with progressions and options to add variety and functional components.  


Invest in learning!  There are lots of options: hire a trainer, join a small group session, attend a class or sign up for a seminar.  You'll learn more about form and function and how to reduce risk injury and increase results for your time spent in the gym.  Once you increase confidence and knowledge, you can then set yourself up and execute exercises properly whether using machines, free weights or other resistance tools.

Myth #3:  Crunches are the best way to get rid of belly fat 

 FACT:  While crunches can contribute to washboard abs, they can't get rid of the load of laundry on top! Don't believe those commercials that offer one simple exercise that will magically whittle down your waist.  It just doesn't happen like that.


Firstly, unfortunately, it is not possible to spot reduce.  To effectively reduce adipose tissue (that's fat), you really need to a three-pronged approach including diet, cardiovascular activity and muscle conditioning.  

Improving eating habits helps to create the caloric debt necessary to lose weight. This doesn't mean eating like a bird, but rather improving the quality and quantity.  Focus on nutrient-dense and whole foods while limiting processed foods and "fillers" that don't offer much nutrient value.  Portion control is also key the good news is that you can eat way more green beans than fries to fill 100 calories!  If you already have a solid workout routine, this is likely where you need to target.

If your workouts are sporadic or non-existent, exercise is going to be as important as diet because you can't just keep cutting calories.  Cardiovascular activity is always a healthy component in a balanced workout routine but if it's fat you want to target, then muscle is your best ammunition.  Adding muscle increases your resting metabolic rate 24 hours a day so is a more efficient option than cardio.  You don't have to add much and it doesn't take up a lot of space so don't worry about bulking up.

If you do want to target your mid-section muscles, crunches aren't the best choice.  The core is a complex group of muscles and is better worked through a variety of functional training including planks, bridges, rotations and stabilizing exercises.

Myth #4: You should work out at a low-moderate intensity "fat-burning zone" to lose weight

FACT:  The grain of truth is that you do indeed burn a higher percentage of fat calories per minute doing low to moderate intensity training which is about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.  When in the "fat burning zone", 60% of calories burned may be fat.  Conversely, doing higher intensity activity may only burn 35% of calories from fat.  The 60% would seem to be the obvious choice then, correct?  

Wrong. You still have to do the math.  Remember that the percentage is of the overall calories burned.  Here's an example of a 150-lb person walking versus running.  Walking for 60 minutes will burn 170 calories with approximately 102 of those calories from fat.  Running for 60 minutes will burn about 780 calories with 274 from fat.

WHAT TO DO:  When time is such an important factor fitting in exercise, it's not surprising why high intensity training has become so popular.  If you only have 30 minutes to work out, a 150-lb person could still burn more fat calories running than walking.  Sometimes working out between 70-90% of your maximum heart rate, however, isn't comfortable or fun, so you have to balance preference and time.  In addition, working out a high intensity ALL THE TIME can be stressful on the body, increasing risk of injury and cortisol so it is ideal to space out those high intensity training bouts with some lower intensity time to recover.

Myth #5:  No pain, no gain

FACT:  Although you can expect to have SOME degree of soreness 24 to 48 hours after a workout (which is your muscle repairing the micro tears caused from overload and challenge), a fitness activity should not hurt while you're doing it.  Pain is an amazing tool and our body's way of telling us we may be headed for injury!


Listen to your body! Very often, we can get caught up with numbers and benchmarks.  If something is painful, stop.  You may simply need to adjust your form, modify your weight or add more stability.  

Working harder is not always the best choice as there are so many variables involved in a individual workout - sleep, fuel, weather, etc.  With weights, cardio or any recreational activity, if you stick with a rule of "comfortable but challenging", you will end up in a range that grows with you and varies with any changes.  


Information and training has changed so much over time so it's not surprising that information about fitness and working out can seem conflicting and confusing!  I promise, however, that we're just learning more and getting better along the way!  

Do you have a question you'd like answered, cleared up or challenged?  We'd love to hear from you.  Visit and click on "questions".  We'll try our best to address it and it may end up on a future segment!