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Fitness Fables

Is no pain, no gain really true when it comes to exercise? Does the amount you sweat really correlate to the amount of fat you're losing? Experts take a look at these and other fitness fables.
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The world of fitness abounds with fables, from no pain, no gain, to drinking water before exercising can give you cramps, and falling for one could have you spinning your wheels and getting nowhere instead of shaping up. Experts set the record straight and take the mystery out of these and other muscular myths for WebMD so you can make the most of your exercise routine.

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No Pain, No Gain. "No pain, no gain is bad," says Jeffrey Berg, an orthopedic surgeon and team physician for the Washington Redskins. "When people start to exercise, there may be some muscle aches and pains, which are normal. But there are other aches and pains, such as joint pain, bone pain, muscle strains, and ligament or tendon strains, which are bad, and you should back off of because they'll get worse if you ignore them."

So start slow, explains Berg.

"Always ease into an exercise plan to avoid injury," says Berg. "The recommendation is if you're healthy and you know it, you can start exercising, but err on the side of being too slow than too fast to avoid injury."

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends starting an exercise program slowly and listening to your body and to your doctor.

There Is One Best Way to Exercise. "This is not true," says Berg. "In fact, not only is there not one best way for everyone to exercise, but there's not one best way for each person."

His recipe for success? Vary your routine.

"You have to incorporate different exercises and routines into your fitness strategy to reach your goals, which should be individualized for you," says Berg. "The exercises you choose should be tailored to what you like to do and then optimized for fitness and to avoid injury."

More Sweat, Less Fat. "This is false," says Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "The amount you sweat is indicative of your body's ability to maintain its normal body temperature. You sweat when your body starts to store heat so you can experience cooling via evaporation of that sweat. So it doesn't correlate to how much energy, or calories, is being expended."

Drinking Water Causes Cramps. "Cramps are actually a symptom of dehydration, so this is an old wives tale," says Bryant. "Basically, drinking water will help ensure you are properly hydrated, which will ultimately reduce your risk of sustaining or experience cramps."

Lifting Weights Can Make You Look Bulky. "This is a myth that deters a lot of women from strength training, when in fact, what determines the amount of muscle bulk a person has is largely dependent on genetic factors," says Bryant.

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