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Three Of The Biggest Exercise Myths That We All Keep Falling For

Updated: Jul 8, 2021

Out with the old and in with the truth! The only way you can improve yourself or safely participate in exercise is by being educated, and it starts right here. Below are 3 very commonly asked questions or misconceptions about exercise that will answer all your questions.

You Can't Exercise When Your Sick

The answer can be followed by this simple rule: If you’re illness is ABOVE THE NECK (excluding fever) then you are OK to participate in exercise. Typically this would represent most symptoms of the common cold, such as sore throat, congestion, sneezing or a runny nose. However, also included are indicators such as sinusitis or ear infections (unless these cause you issues with your balance). You are not going to cause yourself more harm, and should choose your intensity based on how you are feeling.

When not to exercise? Following the “neck check” theory; symptoms such as heavy coughing, body aches, fever, fatigue, bronchitis, heightened shortness of breath, stomach complications etc. Your recovery time and return to exercise will depend on how sick you are, but always remember to pace yourself back to your previous intensity level.

Why don’t we exercise with a fever? It puts too much stress on the heart, which already is beating faster because of the higher body temperature. There is also danger in raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever.

The best way to get a flat stomach is by doing sit ups or crunches

Everyone is chasing the toned, flat stomach but a lot of people are going about it the wrong way.

If it’s a weight loss journey you are on, you need to focus on the weight loss part first. This means a good balance between diet control and exercise. Remember, unfortunately you cannot choose WHERE YOU LOSE THE WEIGHT. Combining both cardio and resistance is ideal for weight loss. It is your overall muscle mass that boosts your basal metabolic rate, so gaining strength all over your body INCLUDING your core strength is your focus. Compound (multiple joints) functional movements including both static (stationary), dynamic (moving) movements will be ideal.

Abdominal work doesn’t need to be done in isolation to be effective either i.e. the abdominal crunch. Functionally, our body doesn’t just operate in one plane of movement and neither do all the components of our core. We bend forwards, backwards, sideways, rotate from left to right and often combine two of these simultaneously i.e. bend forward and rotate. All or most of these muscle groups should be addressed when looking at strengthening and toning through our mid-section.

If we have already lost the weight, or are just looking to ‘tone the tummy’ a similar rule applies but at a different level. Compound functional movements targeting large muscle groups, including different ranges of movement through our mid-section will combat all of our targets. You can also include some functional changing movements through your whole midsection in isolation, as well as cardiovascular based exercise like running, swimming or cycling.

So what have we learnt? Using just your regular crunch or sit up, in isolation, is not effective for toning up our mid-section. Incorporating dietary changes, as well as increasing our overall muscle mass through compound functional movements (in static and dynamic states) is effective for overall weight loss and abdominal toning.

No pain no gain. Where this works and where the grey areas are.

Where it DOES APPLY:

Ever had a work out where you can hardly walk the following day? Many people perceive that we aren’t working hard enough unless we are sore the next day. This can often also put people off exercise all together as they don’t want to experience that kind of muscle soreness. But this no pain no gain rule does not apply in many cases.

That ‘hard work out’ feeling is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or shortened at DOMS. Certain types of training are known to cause more prevalent DOMs, such as excessive, strenuous or unaccustomed exercise, or eccentric exercise (where muscles are contracted whilst lengthening e.g. downhill running or plyometric exercises). DOMS is caused by muscle strains, where there is muscle fibre disruption and the micro trauma results in an inflammatory response. It is most commonly noticed 24-72 hours after exercise and described as a dull muscular ache. The severity of the soreness depends on the types of forces placed on that muscle. Some other common symptoms of DOMs include:

  • Swelling in the affected limbs

  • Stiffness and temporary reduced range of movement in the joint

  • Tenderness

Pain does not need to be present to make gains in fitness. If you are starting a new fitness program, chances are you may not avoid completely avoid soreness all together, but with the correct prescription the soreness should not be as severe as described. In many circumstances of exercise, high levels of DOMs (particularly if consistent) may indicate that you need to reduce your current load. Whilst eccentric training is important for strength gain, gains can still occur without over emphasis.

Where it might NOT APPLY:

For a long time, people with persisting, or ongoing pain have been misguided that the best management for pain is rest. As when they perform exercise or certain movement, they experience pain. There is a fear of exacerbating that pain with movement. However due to the large continuing influx of research from health professionals we have now adopted the term that ‘motion is lotion’. After discovering the role the brain and central nervous system plays in our perception of pain in persisting cases, incorporating education on the contributing factors in chronic pain has become a positive step forward in managing chronic pain with exercise. Have a listen to Lorimer Mosley below as he describes why things hurt:

The key to a safe exercise program prescription for these individuals is pacing. Exercise Physiologists are well educated and can work alongside your allied health team or physiotherapist to create the right exercise regime for you. If you are interested in learning more about any of these myths or having an exercise program prescribed for you, click the button below or call one of our clinics today.


Howatson, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S., Tallent, J., Bell, P., French, D. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2012. 9:20

O’Sullivan, P., Lin, I. Acute low back pain Beyond drug therapies. PAIN MANAGEMENT TODAY 2014; 1(1): 8-13

O’ Sullivan, P. It’s time for change with the management of non-specific chronic low back pain. Br J Sports Med published online August 4, 2011

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