8 Fitness Myths That Drive Experts Crazy (New York Times)

Posted: Jan 04, 2024 in In the News

This article originally appeared in the New York Times on January 4, 2024.


8 Fitness Myths That Drive Experts Crazy

By Danielle Friedman

When done right, exercise can be a veritable miracle drug. But follow the wrong advice and you can easily set yourself up for injury. Take the sit-up: Once considered the gold standard of core exercises, we now know that it can make low-back pain worse.

Fitness culture is rife with such misconceptions, thanks to constantly evolving science and fitness influencers who share tips based on “anecdote and gym lore,” said Brad Schoenfeld, a professor of exercise science at Lehman College in New York. “Once those opinions are disseminated to the public and take hold, they are hard to change.”

I asked more than a dozen fitness experts to share the myths they hear most often among their clients and patients, and that they wish they could debunk once and for all.

If you’ve taken a high school gym class, you’ve probably been told to spend a few minutes stretching before exercising. But recent research has found that stretching before exercising is ineffective for preventing injury and may actually work against you. That’s because stretching a muscle for more than 90 seconds temporarily diminishes its strength.


Nope. Exercise scientists debunked this one years ago, but many Americans still see it as a benchmark of good health, said Cedric Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.

The myth traces back to the 1960s, when a Japanese clock manufacturer mass-produced a pedometer with a name that translated to “10,000-steps meter.” “Unfortunately, it’s taken on a life of its own, because the research clearly doesn’t support there being anything magical about that goal,” Dr. Bryant said.

The latest research suggests that the health benefits of walking appear to plateau at around 7,500 steps, but even as few as 4,000 steps per day can reduce the risk of dying from any cause.


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