Want to know the best thing you can do right now to improve your physique, strength, and health? Stop sweating the small stuff. If you’re eating healthy and working out—imperfect as your approach may be—you’re already well on your way to a better body. That’s because most of the fitness rules you supposedly have to follow to see results are bunk. The following are some classic fitness falsehoods, many of which you’ve likely fallen for in the past. It’s time to set the record straight.
Fitness Myth No. 1
“YOU HAVE TO DO HIIT TO BURN FAT.”
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is among the biggest trends in fitness now, and a popular form of cardiovascular training. Intense intervals— alternating bouts of all-out activity with periods of rest or light activity, usually wrapping up in about 20 minutes—have been hyped as a way to burn maximum calories in a short period of time. The claim is mainly based on the idea of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which refers to the body processing more oxygen in the days after an intense workout to encourage recovery (which in turn leads to a heightened metabolic rate). Therefore, while HIIT workouts are short, EPOC allows them to cause a fat-burning effect that lasts many times longer.
While EPOC is a real phenomenon, its impact on your body fat is disappointingly small. A 2006 report in the Journal of Sports Science found that “the earlier research optimism regarding an important role for the EPOC in weight loss is generally unfounded.” Additionally, “the exercise stimuli required to promote prolonged EPOC are unlikely to be tolerated by non-athletic individuals.” So, if you’re fairly new to training, you’ve got a long way to go before HIIT will be of any help.
John Alvino, a trainer and nutrition coach in Morristown, NJ, recommends a much simpler cardio regimen—five to 10 minutes of jumping rope at the end of a training session, which is plenty to condition the heart for the demands of your weight training and a generally active lifestyle. And if your goal is weight loss, simply cut calories. “Train with weights, walk more, and be active,” says Alvino— you don’t need HIIT to change your body.