If you spend any time at the gym, let alone on the internet, there are probably some pieces of common wisdom about fitness that you treat like gospel truth. But these ideas aren't always true—bad ideas just have a way of spreading. Here are six common beliefs about fitness that are just plain wrong.
1. You Shouldn't Eat Fat
Fat isn't bad, it's just misunderstood. Humans evolved with fat in our diet and the right kinds can improve our memory, increase concentration, and build muscle. The trick is to eat the right kind and combine it with plenty of aerobic exercise. Stick with natural fats like the kind you find in nuts, avocados, coconut oil, and fish oil, and your diet will be just fine.
2. Dieting Means Eating Bland Food
Let's face it—you're gonna lose your mind if you try to live on nothing but chicken and broccoli. These foods are definitely healthy, but if you want to stick to your diet you need options. When you're in the grocery store of course you should make sure you're stocking up on nutritious items like lean meats, vegetables, and nuts, but don't be afraid to buy the things you enjoy as well.
3. Salt Is Evil
Like fat, salt got a bad reputation years ago and hasn't been able to shake it. It's true that sprinkling it all over your french fries is probably not a good idea, but a low dose of sodium is a natural part of your diet. In fact, depriving your body of salt can actually backfire. When you don't consume enough of it your body holds on to the little amount you take in. Eating the recommended 1000-2000 mg of sodium a day lets your body release it, and also balances your electrolytes.
4. Run, Don't Walk
Running is the only real way to burn fat, right? If you're doing a leisurely lap instead of pumping your calf muscles, you must be slacking off. Wrong wrong wrong. First of all, running can cause serious injuries, from stressing your immune system to damaging your cartilage. Second of all, recent studies have shown that walking is just as effective at relieving stress and preventing heart disease if you do it for a long period of time.
5. Stretch Before You Work Out
Before you start your workout routine, you probably spend 10-15 minutes lying on the mat stretching so that you don't damage your muscles. However, stretching isn't as effective as you think because the motion actually loosens your tendons and makes you feel less steady. It's called warming up for a reason: a better bet is to do some light aerobic exercise to get your muscles warmer and help you perform better.
6. Muscles Make You Manly
Yes, we've all seen the pictures of female body builders who've done one too many sets of dead-lifts, but building muscle doesn't automatically make you bulky. Unless you're injecting steroids, you're not going to end up truly bulky and “manly” because you don't have enough testosterone to make it happen. If you're eating a proper diet and shedding fat, you can build a lot of muscle and still be much smaller than you think.
They say that knowledge is power and the truth can set you free. So go take a leisurely walk and eat a nice big avocado when you get home---you'll be just as healthy as the girl who's sweating bullets on the treadmill and living on broccoli, and a whole lot happier to boot!