True or False? 10 Fitness and Wellness Myths Debunked

Sarah Sun

With the rise of social media and the internet, myths regarding fitness, personal well-being, sports, and other popular lifestyle topics are increasingly circulated and believed by many. However, do not fear! Experts at South High—your very own teachers and coaches—are here to show you why you should not believe everything you see online. Here are 10 fitness and general well-being myths, debunked.


The Experts

Coach Herr is the Director of Athletics and the physical education department chairperson at Great Neck South. He was a professional athletic trainer prior to his career as a teacher, and he worked in the NFL and a Division 1 college. After deciding that the hours and the travel wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted, he switched to teaching, which was “one of the best decisions [he’s] ever made.”

Mrs. Schiereck is a physical education and health teacher at South High, along with being the Dean of Students. She chose to go into PE because she has enjoyed playing sports her whole life and wanted to help younger students cultivate a similar love for sports. “When my coach told me about becoming a PE teacher,” Mrs. Schiereck describes, “I said to her, ‘you mean I could teach sports or fitness or nutrition for a living? Well, that’s what I’m gonna do.”’

Coach Sorise has been coaching high school basketball for 18 years; she is currently the girls Varsity basketball coach at South High. “Believe it or not, I started as a cheerleader, and I wasn’t very good at it. I actually enjoyed playing the game more than watching the game. As I got older, I was taller than most people, and in ninth grade, I made the varsity basketball team, and later I got recruited to play in college. My junior year abroad I played in Edinburgh, and I traveled all over Europe playing basketball, and then met my husband through the sport. So, it’s opened a lot of doors for me.”


Myth #1: Sweating means you’re out of shape.

“Sweating is a natural response that your body has to cool down,” says Coach Herr. “So, sweating does not mean that you’re out of shape. It just means that your body is functioning properly when your internal temperature rises.” Sweat is a mechanism your body uses to cool off. In fact, a fitter body may even sweat more, due to having a higher volume of blood and excess fluid that can be sweated out. 


Myth #2: Muscle can turn into fat if not exercised.

“I was formerly a strength conditioning coach where I would work with teams and with clients, who would often believe that muscle turns into fat,” Coach Herr observes. “It doesn’t—muscles atrophy when you don’t use them, which means the muscle fibers actually just get smaller, and when you’re inactive and sedentary, you can gain fat. Muscle and fat can’t magically change tissue.” Fat cells and muscle cells are two completely different structures. What causes physical changes when you don’t work out as much or are not exercising regularly is a change in body composition.


Myth #3: If you work out, you can eat whatever you want.

“If you work out and you burn a lot of calories, you could probably eat more calories,” says Mrs. Schiereck. “However, they have to be healthy calories. I always tell kids in my health class, you can be the skinniest person on the face of the earth, but if your diet consists of McDonald’s for lunch, Wendy’s for dinner, etc., your insides are not healthy. If you want to eat more calories and they’re healthier calories, that’s great. But if your calories are coming from processed or fast food, then no.” In fact, it is easy to out-eat the benefits of the exercise you get—both working out and eating well are important for good health.


Myth #4: Spot-training will help you lose fat in a specific area of your body.

“I encountered this a lot with certain clients that I used to work with who wanted to lose specific areas of fat, and so they only wanted to train certain parts of their arms or legs so that they can get rid of those fat deposits,” Coach Herr remarks. “I always tell my clients the muscle doesn’t go out and ‘eat’ the fat deposits next to it like Pac Man—that’s not how it works. When you exercise and are in shape, the more muscle fibers you have active, and the more metabolic demand you have, and so you burn more calories. It’s overall body fat that you lose, but you can’t specifically target a particular body part.” In other words, your body requires energy during exercise, which it gets from fatty tissue—however, your body utilizes fat from all over the body to be transported to the muscles being used and metabolized into energy. As a result, spot-training is a myth.


Myth #5: Doing crunches and sit-ups will get you a six-pack.

“Again, it comes down to what your body composition is,” Coach Herr says. “Everybody has a six pack—it just matters how much body fat you have over those muscles. Doing crunches and situps will help to develop those muscles and increase muscle fiber recruitment in your abs.”


Myth #6: More always means better.

“Short and sweet bursts of energy are sometimes equally as productive versus riding at a lower intensity,” says Coach Sorise. “It all depends upon what type of workout you’re looking for. In my practices we would do interval training, where short spurts that don’t necessarily emphasize longevity make you better conditioned.”

“Especially with the invention of things like HIIT workouts, Tabata workouts, things like that, you can get a very, very good workout in a short period of time,” Coach Herr adds. “It depends on the exercises you’re doing and the intensity at which you’re doing it.”


Myth #7: Lifting weights will bulk you up and make you slow.

“It all comes down to muscle fiber recruitment,” says Coach Herr. “If you are lifting heavy weights and you’re doing higher reps and certain types of activities, that muscle will actually lean out instead of becoming bulky. It really all depends on the type of exercise you’re doing and what you’re doing with them. If you’re stretching, you’re doing yoga, lengthening the muscle fibers is what comes into play.”

“There’s all sorts of weightlifting,” Coach Sorise adds. “When I was in college, I did a lot of what’s called resistance training, which actually helps prevent injuries more than anything, and definitely did not make you slow. The main goal of weight training for us was improving strength and flexibility, not necessarily bulk. If you strengthen the right muscles, you can make joints and tendons less susceptible to injury.”


Myth #8: For maximum results, it is necessary for you to gain protein immediately, consume sports drinks, and use supplements.

“Protein takes a lot for your body to metabolize,” Coach Sorise says. “Before any sporting event, I would hydrate first before having protein. Also, as a psych teacher, I know that when you participate in sport, it triggers your sympathetic nervous system, which actually slows down the digestive process. So, packing yourself full of protein right before a competition actually will slow your body down because it’s a harder substance for your body to break down versus a simple sugar like a candy bar.”

“As for sports drinks, I don’t think sugar is terrible for the body. My son loves his Gatorade and his sugar stuff. But, I think there’s a time and a place for sugar in your body, so I’m not a huge advocate of artificial sweeteners. Many sports drinks are composed more of sugar and salts thanthe healthy stuff that our body needs, which in the end is just plain old water.”

“Also, as an athlete you are putting your body through a different exercise regimen than somebody who’s not exercising,” Coach Sorise adds. “So, I do think you need to put the right things in your body. If for example, I were vegetarian, and I didn’t eat ample amounts of protein, a supplement may be necessary to fulfill things that I’m not putting in my body naturally given my eating preferences. But I don’t think it’s a requirement. Depending upon my lifestyle, it may be something that could help me maximize my potential, but it is not something that would be a necessity for me to perform at high levels.”


Myth #9: All cholesterol is bad for your health.

“You need cholesterol in your diet,” Mrs. Schiereck explains. “A big myth is that eggs are bad for you because they’re high in cholesterol. But, my big thing when I teach health is I always use the word moderation. Everything in moderation. So, yes, you do need cholesterol in your diet. You just have to make sure that you’re not overtaking the amount and trying to keep it in moderation… And something I tell my health class too is when you go to college, mom and dad are not going to be there to feed you. You have to start making your own choices, and when you go into the college cafeteria, there’s chicken fingers and fries, and there’s a nice salad with grilled chicken on it and of course you want sometimes to have that chicken fingers and fries but you can’t make it all the time. You have to pick and choose.”


Myth #10: You should avoid all fats if you’re trying to be healthy or lose weight.

“You need fat in your diet to be healthy,” Mrs. Schiereck says. “Your body needs that cushion to support your limbs and your muscles. But there are good fats and there are bad fats. You can get your good fats from avocados, oils, nuts, etc., and it’s the bad fats you want to limit. But, you definitely need fat in your diet.” Your body cannot produce fatty acids on its own, and therefore the fats that you intake can serve certain bodily functions, just as helping you absorb vitamins.

“And that’s the biggest problem with the word diet,” Mrs. Schiereck adds. “I hate that word because when you say diet, people think you are trying to lose weight or decrease something in your diet. These Keto diets, lemon water diets, whatever it is, it’s not healthy, because you get to a certain point where you can’t maintain it, and you start to backtrack. It’s really about keeping steady and watching your calorie intake, being active, but not depriving yourself of things that you like.”



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