Myths & Misconceptions About Exercise

From 1946-52, The RJ Reynolds tobacco company advertised the “actual fact” that their Camel cigarette was the most smoked among US doctors, citing surveys by “three leading independent research organizations”.

In reality, the ‘independent research’ was conducted by RJ Reynolds’s advertising agency who surveyed most doctors after gifting them complimentary Camel cigarettes!  

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We now know cigarettes are unhealthy and would never be recommended by a doctor.

But, in an age where social media permits anyone to post almost anything, how can you know what is fact and what is fiction?


Myth 1: No Pain, No Gain

Regular fitness activities will keep you fitter and more mobile. And yes, you need to push limits and overload your muscles to get stronger. BUT, insufficient rest and too much HIIT training, for example, does not allow your body to recover. Championship cyclist Mark Cavendish says, “The hard work is easy, but it takes courage to rest”.  

Truth: When in doubt, rest up and replace exercise with an extra hour in bed

Myth 2: Fasted Training Burns More Fat

It has been suggested that fasted cardio burns more fat. Myth! Research into the effect of fasted and fed aerobic exercise reveals insignificant differences on body mass. The effect of exercise is more likely to be enhanced by creating a permanent lifestyle change including a meaningful calorie deficit, rather than exercising in fasted or fed states. 

Truth: A healthy, balanced diet gives you energy to exercise.

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Myth 3: You Can Out-Train a Bad Diet

Even if you burn 12,000 calories a day training like Michael Phelps, the quality of the nutrients you put in your body matters. Not all calories are created equal. 

Truth: You are what you eat. 

Myth 4: You Need Supplements

Yes, you need more protein to build muscle size and strength. But most of us can get what we need from food. A healthy balanced diet should give most of the vitamins and minerals you need.

You may want to add processed nutrients to your diet but many of us do not need to.

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Myth 5: Exercise Is Just for Body

Your brain is made up of nervous tissue (neurones) and connective tissue.  

Just like the muscles in the body, it adapts to the demands placed on it. New pathways are forged as your brain learns from new movements. The evidence on neuroplasticity – our brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections – is growing. Let’s not forget about the release of serotonin (the feel-good hormone), a natural antidepressant.

Truth: Exercise is good for body and mind.

Myth 6: You Choose Where to Burn Fat

Crunches and sit-ups are not the most effective move for torching tummy fat. We are all different. Fat is stored, and lost from different places in different people, at different rates.  

Truth: Healthy, sustainable lifestyle choices are the safest way to reduce fat, long term

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Myth 7: You Must Split Muscle Groups for Maximum Gains

Imagine you have 3 dedicated training sessions a week. Depending on the days you train, you might get better results making each session ‘full-body’. If you train different muscle groups in each session (e.g. Chest & Back on Wednesday) then you effectively give those muscles 6 days rest. If it only takes 1-2 days to recover that means 4-5 days of missed opportunity. 

Truth: You do not always need to split muscle groups for maximum results.

Myth 8: You Need Loads of Time

“I am too busy” is the number 1 excuse we give ourselves. If you genuinely don’t have time, lifestyle changes and regular small activities ( walking, gardening, cleaning) can make a big impact. 

Truth: You do not need long dedicated sessions to improve your health. 

Myth 9: Stretching and Foam Rolling Before Exercise Prevents Injury

Warming up, which involves raising the heart rate and literally increasing your body temperature and blood flow, is not to be confused with stretching. Stretching is beneficial for different reasons and is unlikely to do damage, but should not ever be a substitute for warming up.

Truth: You need to warm-up before exercise to prevent injury.

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Myth 10: You Can Shortcut to Success

Let’s define success as leading a fit, healthy and active lifestyle. You can get liposuction, gastric bands or try an extreme 6 week training plan, but we all know the truth; there is no shortcut to success. Nor should there be. 

Truth: You only value what you invest in. Invest in your healthy body by working out and having a healthy relationship with food. Enjoy the journey.


These exercise myths just scratch the surface. We hear a lot more commonly held beliefs about exercise that are questionable, if not completely false.

You’ll notice many of the truths above follow a common theme, regular, sustainable exercise and a healthy, balanced diet. 

If you want to find out more about exercise myths, or book a wellbeing workshop at your work, get in touch: