Many myths exist about the relationship between exercise and weight loss. Read on to get the facts on cellulite, diet, spot reducing and more.
How does exercise affect your weight? Learn the real truth behind some popular myths that confuse many people.
1. More exercise means more weight loss
To lose body fat, you need to burn off more calories than you eat. But if you start exercising and expect your weight to drop easily, you may be disappointed. Exercise can increase appetite, causing you to eat more and thereby offset the calories burned. Rewarding yourself with food after a good workout just defeats the purpose. Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand if you want to lose weight.
Say you weigh 150 pounds and burn off 300 calories during a brisk 45-minute walk. Afterwards, you eat three reduced-fat cookies and a glass of low-fat milk, or one bottled ice tea drink and a handful of pretzels. Guess what? You’re back to where you started.
- Solution: Cut back on higher fat and sugar items in your meal plan. Help feed your appetite with more high-fiber, wholesome foods that are filling but not fattening. Fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and lean meat, chicken and fish are your best bet.
2. You can spot reduce
As much as you exercise one particular area, you can’t target fat reduction in that spot. The perfect example is sit-ups. No matter how many sit-ups you do, it will not decrease the fat in your belly (though it will strengthen the muscle underneath).
- Solution: Combine aerobic activity (walking, biking, swimming) with strength training. This will help to reduce overall body fat (including the targeted area) while strengthening the muscles underneath. Eventually, the effort of all your sit-ups will pay off.
3. When you don’t exercise, muscle turns into fat
Muscle does not turn into fat, nor does fat turn into muscle. They are completely separate. Fat tissue is a layer of fat cells that covers the muscles. When you exercise, you build up muscle tissue. When you eat fewer calories, your fat cells shrink.
If you stop exercising, whether from illness or injury, your muscles actually shrink in size. If you then overeat, your fat cells get larger.
- Solution: Once you resume exercise, you’ll build up muscle again, and re-shrink your fat cells. Aim to include strength training in your workouts as well as aerobics to help build lean muscle. Muscle tissue actively burns calories throughout the day, not just during the exercise period. Also remember to keep your eating in check.
4. Cellulite is caused by yo-yo dieting
Cellulite is actually collections of fat that push against the connective tissue beneath the skin. This causes the surface of the skin to dimple or pucker and look lumpy.
Genes, gender, age, amount of body fat and thickness of skin can all influence cellulite – not repeated weight gain and loss.
- Solution: Don’t fall for any “miracle” medicines or lotions, which are ineffective or temporary at best. To reduce cellulite, you will need to decrease overall body fat by exercising more and eating less. Experts agree that an exercise routine that combines aerobic exercise with strength training is the best weapon against cellulite.
5. A long exercise session is better for fat loss than several short segments
New research is challenging the theory that longer workouts are the best way to lose body fat. A few small studies have shown that repetitions of shorter exercise may lead to more fat loss than longer bouts.
- Solution: Instead of a steady one-hour workout, you may get more results with 30 minutes of exercise followed by a 20-minute rest, and then a second 30-minute workout.
The bottom line? Most forms of exercise can be effective and beneficial to your health. Until researchers have more answers, the most important thing is to eat nutritiously and work exercise into your lifestyle as much and as often as your doctor recommends.