Fitness myths you need to stop falling for

Myth 2: You have to lift heavy weights to build muscle.

Not true, said Schoenfeld, who studies muscle growth. A significant body of research now shows that lifting relatively light weights for, say, 30 repetitions is just as effective for building muscle and strength as lifting weights that feel heavier for five to 12 repetitions. It’s a matter of personal preference.

But don’t avoid heavy weights for fear they’ll make you fat, said Jacob Selon, MD, a sports medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic. “It actually takes a lot of effort” to build Popeye muscles, he said. “It doesn’t just happen with typical strength training.”

Myth 3: Running destroys your knees.

Research has debunked the idea that running increases your risk of osteoarthritis and even suggests it may protect your knees from the disease. In fact, lack of movement increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis, along with age, weight and genetic predisposition.

For years, experts thought that “our knees are like tires — you drive the car a lot, you burn out the tread on your tire,” Goldman said. “That’s not true because our body is dynamic” and our joints can regenerate themselves, especially when we’re regularly active.

But running can definitely lead to knee pain or injury if you train too aggressively, said Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Metzl called this a “violation of the rule of overdoing”—running too fast or too far too soon. “Increase slowly,” he said. And if you start to feel pain in your knee, get it checked out as soon as possible by a sports medicine expert.

Myth 4: Walking is enough to keep you fit as you age.

Walking is popular among older Americans for good reason: It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, as well as the risk of premature death. And it’s so doable.

But walking alone isn’t enough to stay fit as you get older, said Anne Brady, associate professor of exercise science at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Starting in your 30s, your muscle mass progressively declines, she said, so you should also focus on strength training.

“People can do daily activities with a minimal amount of cardiovascular fitness,” she said. “But when they don’t have the strength or muscle power to do everyday activities, then they lose their independence.”

Supplement the walks with at least two 20-minute strength workouts each week.

Myth 5: Runners and cyclists don’t need lower body strength training.

Amanda Katz, a certified strength and running coach in New York City, said she often has to convince clients who run or bike that they also need to train lower-body strength.

Pounding the pavement or pedaling strengthens your lower body, but not enough to stimulate significant muscle growth, she said.

A strength-training regimen that includes squats, lunges, glute bridges, and pull-ups can improve bone density and reduce the risk of injury—and make you a stronger runner or cyclist.

Myth 6: Mods are for beginners.

Choosing to do a less strenuous version of an exercise—say, a push-up or a kneeboard on the floor—doesn’t mean you’re weak or a novice, or that you’re regressing, said Stephanie Roth-Goldberg, a clinical social worker and therapist at New York, which works with athletes. This is a sign that you are listening to your body and taking care of it.

“Our bodies require different things on different days,” she said. “Varying up exercise helps us work on form and the mind-body connection.”

Myth 7: You need 10,000 steps a day to be healthy.

no Exercise scientists debunked that years ago, but many Americans still see it as the benchmark for good health, said Cedric Bryant, president and chief scientific officer of the American Council on Exercise

The myth dates back to the 1960s, when a Japanese watchmaker mass-produced a pedometer with a name that translates to “10,000-step meter.” “Unfortunately, it’s taken on a life of its own because the research clearly doesn’t support there being anything magical about this goal,” Bryant said.

The latest research shows that the health benefits of walking seem to plateau at around 7,500 steps, but even just 4,000 steps a day can reduce the risk of death from any cause.

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