Fitness Myths Debunked: Sport and Exercise Science

Are you searching for reliable information on fitness and nutrition but find the colossal amount of information out there, confusing, contradictory and hard to sift through? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. When in doubt turn to science, in this case, sports science. Kinesiologist and 8fit fitness instructor Coach Amé explains the growing importance of sport and exercise science in understanding the body in relation to physical exertion. She also debunks the five most popular yet inaccurate fitness myths out there.

What is sports science?

The science of sport (or sports medicine) examines how the human body functions during exercise. This field of study applies scientific principals to understand how sport and physical activity affects health and performance. In a world of fad workout trends, sports science serves to discern fact from fiction with peer-reviewed studies, in-depth research, and performance testing/measurement.

Sports science forges links between the physiology and psychology of sport, as well as anatomy, biomechanics and motor control of the body in movement. Through the study of sports science, the broader world of fitness better understands how the human body reacts to exercise and training in different environments and conditions.

The evolution of sport and exercise science

The study of the human body and the ability to improve its physical performance goes back as far as ancient Greece — think Olympic Games. Over time, universities steadily began to embrace sport and exercise science as a valid academic field — especially in the last 100 years. Anatomists and medical physicians started to pay more attention to the effects of exercise on the human body and researchers gradually began to specialize, resulting in sports medicine defined as science in and of itself.

Scientific discoveries in physical activity and nutrition have transformed sport and exercise science into a credible expert reference point for fitness training and sports performance. Also, this area of science has lifted the lid on the hottest health topics such as the obesity epidemic in adults and children, metabolic diseases (cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, etc.) and degenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.) to name a few.

working computer sports science

Sports science is an ever-evolving discipline with a lot of research continually conducted on a wide variety of health and fitness topics. One of sports science’s many functions is to shed light on fitness myths and reveal fitness truths. Over the years findings have corrected or even contradicted popular fitness myths. Such developments highlight how important it is to continually question facts presented in the media or in health and fitness marketing campaigns.

Navigating the world of fitness

As sport and exercise science continues to uncover new discoveries and improve our knowledge of the human body in motion, a lot of incorrect and outdated information still circulates in the fitness world.

Nowadays, many fitness myths are a result of the misunderstanding and misappropriation of scientific findings. For example, just because one specific study suggests that running moderately for more than one hour maximizes fat burning, doesn’t mean you should believe it or take the research at face value. It’s important to dig deeper and look for additional research that substantiates or invalidates the results of one study.

In our modern society often intrinsic values can be at odds with one another. On the one hand, we strive for longer and healthier lives, yet most people will do almost anything they can (healthy or not) to reach some ideal body type. On top of an overload of available information, it’s crucial to be aware of what’s true and what’s not. Part of my profession as a kinesiologist and fitness instructor is to educate my clients, so they’re informed as to why they need to adopt specific lifestyle changes to achieve optimal physical and mental health for the rest of their lives.

A general rule of thumb is always to question the information you find on commercial websites. If it’s in a brand or company’s interest to sell you a product and the product isn’t accompanied by published and peer-reviewed scientific research, then look for reliable information provided by respected health organizations. Trusted sources of information are the American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Biotechnology Information Center (NCBI), among others.

5 common fitness myths exposed

Myth 1: To burn more body fat you have to train at a moderate pace and longer duration.

Let’s get one thing straight, the above statement is incorrect. Many studies have determined that short and high-intensity workouts (such as the 8fit HIIT) improve your blood lipid profile and insulin sensitivity, for better fitness outcomes compared to moderate-intensity exercise.

Myth 2: If a woman lifts heavy weights she’ll get big and bulky.

This too is false. It’s actually difficult for women to gain that much muscle mass. If you’re looking to build muscle mass (regardless whether you’re a man or woman) you should follow a strict high-calorie nutritional regime as well as rigorous workout routine — and it takes time. Men have more muscle-building hormones, like testosterone, which expedites muscle gain and maintenance.

weight gain muscle gain female

However, women should lift weights on a regular basis. Why? Because it gifts you a host of amazing benefits such as improved posture, strength, healthy weight maintenance, and prevents osteoporosis (a condition that mainly affects women as they get older).

Myth 3: You can spot train body areas for fat burn.

You guessed it — false! Spot training is a myth. One thing is certain when it comes to fat burning: the bigger the muscle, the more energy it burns when trained. But our bodies don’t burn fat from the specific areas you work out — instead fat gradually melts away from all over your body as a whole. If you want to lose fat around your belly area, it’s better to do squats than crunches! Your quads are a group of large muscles, while your abdominals are flatter and smaller muscles.

Myth 4: Exercise machines are better than free weights.

It’s rare that one type of exercise is better than another when it comes to strength training; this is because variety is key when working out. Our body needs to continually be challenged to adapt and avoid getting used to one exercise, minimizing its efficacy.  So are the machines better than the free weights? Not necessarily.

weights lunges woman

Machines help better target specific muscles. When you lift free weights, your stabilizing muscles (core) are put to the test; you have to focus on maintaining proper form throughout the movement as well as staying balanced. Therefore, exercise machines are useful when targeting one or a set of muscles. Just using machines will result in your stabilizing muscles being less stimulated, which is fine if you already have a strong core or are injured, and want to isolate certain muscles.

Myth 5: No pain, no gain.

Although it’s normal to feel a little discomfort in your muscles when training, experiencing actual pain is neither normal nor healthy. If you do experience pain in your joints or back, during or after a workout, this may indicate an injury. In this case, it’s best to seek help from a medical professional or physiotherapist.

Discomfort, on the other hand, is totally normal and is actually associated with positive body adaptation. It’s normal to feel burning or tiredness in your muscles when you train. It’s also good to be a little short of breath at the end of a set of exercises. Remember that form is paramount, so always execute any exercise with correct form. This will not only help you achieve the physical results you want but will also reduce the risk of injury. Learn more about proper form by signing up for 8fit.