Health

The Horribly Misleading Advice Women Hear About Working Out

Published On 10/16/2015 Published On 10/16/2015
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There’s some seriously insane advice batted around the fitness world for the “benefit” of women. And it’s not like this advice is just coming from Josie Schmo blogger with nothing but her own gym experience to hang her hat on. No, this advice is coming from major media outlets -- often, media outlets that should know better.
 
Don’t fall prey to the headlines that keep these organizations in business. They’re using empty promises and flashy lingo that feast on your vanity and insecurities to click their way straight to the bank. “Tips” like these are especially damaging to women and are not to be trusted.

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Bad advice: Spot reduction IS possible

Oh, Cosmopolitan -- why the hell are you telling women they can sculpt perfect abs with nothing more than a seven-minute core routine? It’s the latest ploy to subtly promote spot reduction (the idea that you can lose fat from a single body part by working that body part), and it’s an empty, empty promise.
 
Why it’s wrong: Ladies, hear me: you cannot get amazing abs by doing sit-ups. You cannot get amazing arms by doing pushups. You cannot get an amazing ass by doing squats. Yes, these exercises help -- they build muscle and enhance strength -- but without achieving overall fat loss, they’ll do little to make you look like your favorite fitness star.
 
A killer physique takes killer work, including a long-term, calorie-controlled healthy eating plan combined with a total-body strength training and cardio routine. In other words, it’s going to take more than seven minute abs to get the washboard stomach you’re craving. Sorry to destroy the dream.

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Bad advice: One workout can solve all your problems

OMG, TotalBeauty’s five-minute triceps workout will completely make over your life! You’ll be happier, healthier, and probably wealthier by doing this quick workout, all while binge-watching Scandal. Or so they’d have you believe.
 
First, there’s the implied ability to spot reduce (“this workout will slay your batwings!”), the weird suggestion that a triceps workout will give you “perfect posture” (not true), and most absurdly of all, the implication that this (apparently miraculous) five-minute routine can stave off osteoporosis. That’s where the shit hits the fan.
 
Why it’s wrong: Yes, strength training is important for maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis, but saying you should work your triceps to prevent bone wasting is like taking someone to dinner, then buying an appetizer. There’s something seriously missing from the equation.
 
If your goal is to use exercise to prevent osteoporosis, your triceps routine isn’t going to make (or break) your bone health. Rather, weight bearing activity that engages the lower body -- your legs, hips and spine -- can help prevent hip and back fractures, the primary culprits for life-altering osteoporosis-related injuries. Walking, dancing, or lower-body strength moves such as squats and lunges are a much better option.

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Bad advice: Strength train before cardio or you’ll destroy your progress

C’mon, Women’s Health. You should know better than to support this garbage.
 
Why it’s wrong: There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to order a workout. Cardio first? Great. Strength training first? Great. However, it is possible to determine which option is best for you.
 
The correct way to order a workout comes down to goals and focus. Think about it: You have more energy and better focus at the beginning of a workout, so it makes sense to tackle your primary fitness goals first. For instance, if you really want to gain strength, start your workout with strength training, saving cardio for later. If, however, you want to improve your 5k time, go for a run first.

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Bad advice: One “fun” weekend = fitness disaster

Too many media outlets and fitness “experts” support a disordered, all-or-nothing approach to food and fitness. Take, for instance, the intro to this Brides article: “You wake up on Monday after a weekend of fun, friends and a lot of food with a pit in your stomach. You've officially fallen off the get-fit wagon and your wedding day is on the horizon.”
 
Why it’s wrong: Ladies, hear me: One weekend of food and friends does not mean you’ve fallen off the fitness wagon, as long as you maintain your otherwise healthy routine. It’s this type of mental self-flagellation after a night of enjoyment that makes a balanced approach to fitness so hard to attain. Go ahead and incorporate an occasional weekend of cheese fries and margaritas into your lifestyle -- trust me, it won’t negate all your positive health behaviors. 

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Bad advice: Workouts can give your genes a makeover

Why it’s wrong: Dying to try the workout that promises 6 Exercise to Give you Runway Model Legs? Well, unless it miraculously adds six inches to your height, it’s not going to deliver. Heck, I’m 6’0”, and I’m still not going to get runway model legs no matter how many arabesque lunges I do -- my genetics simply won’t allow it.
 
Instead of following a workout based on someone else’s body type (Get Michelle Obama’s arms! Beyonce’s booty! Gwen Stefani’s abs!), understand that your workout’s results are tied, at least in part, to your own genetic predispositions. Make peace with the body you have and embrace the awesome things exercise can do specifically for you.

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Bad advice: Building muscle reduces fat

Why it’s wrong: Muscle and fat are two entirely different types of tissue, and building muscle does not automatically reduce fat (this is a common misconception). And gaining fat does not automatically reduce muscle.
 
That’s why claims like this one, again from Cosmopolitan, drive me bananas, “These four quick moves designed by celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson tighten muscle fibers to eliminate the bumpy appearance of cellulite.”
 
“Tightening muscle fibers” has nothing to do with the appearance of cellulite. Cellulite is fat -- again, a tissue completely separate from muscle. Unless you’re taking steps to reduce your body fat while following a strength training program, this routine won’t do jack shit for your cellulite. Sorry, Tracy Anderson, your “celebrity tips” are nonsense.

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Laura Williams is an exercise physiologist and freelance fitness writer who would never work just her triceps for better posture. Follow her on Twitter: @girlsgonesporty

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