6 myths women hear about getting fit

6 myths women hear about getting fit

Kristen Turner, a health navigator with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., clears up some myths surrounding women’s health and fitness.

Myth: Lifting heavy weights will make a woman look like a body builder, so do more reps with lighter weights.

Fact: To develop huge, bulky muscles, you will need to train specifically for that purpose, including a strict training and nutrition program. There are women who train for the purpose of body building competitions, which is different from the recommended resistance training program for the average population.

Women do not gain muscle mass the same way men do, nor will they “bulk up” through training with challenging heavier weights. There are various ways to train the same muscle group by manipulating load, sets and repetitions. Strength training with moderate to vigorous weight, 8-12 repetitions, 8-10 exercises, focusing on all major muscle groups, at least two times per week, is recommended for improved tone, strength and weight management. The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you will burn, giving you an overall toned physique.

Myth: Lots of cardio will get you toned.

Fact: A well-rounded fitness program for general health incorporates various modes and intensities of cardiovascular exercise, resistance training and flexibility.

Incorporating strength training with heavier weights might mean you can focus less on endless cardio sessions on the treadmill or stair climber, depending on your fitness goals. Always keep in mind your goals and purpose for exercise. If your purpose for exercise is to train for a marathon, it is important to run – a lot. Even so, heavy cardiovascular exercise programs need to include resistance training for injury prevention and functionality. However, if your goal is to build strength, lose weight and look more toned, you don’t have to rely as much on cardio exercise, but it is still an important part of your overall fitness program. For the general population, Kristen recommends following the guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine, which recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise per week. Also include some vigorous activity if you are physically capable and they suit your goals.

Myth: You need to work out hard every day.

Fact: While you should incorporate movement into your everyday life, intense workouts, including strength and cardio, should be balanced. Your body needs at least 48 hours of rest between training the same muscle groups. It’s best to alternate muscle groups and intensity of workouts throughout the week, and always give yourself at least one rest day per week. Giving your muscles time off is critical to allowing them time to recover and rebuild.

Myth: It’s okay to skimp on sleep to fit in workouts.

Fact: One of the best ways to get stronger is by getting sufficient sleep, 7-8 hours a night. Sleep is one of the best ways to help muscles recover and rebuild, while not sleeping enough can undo the hard work of eating right and exercising. Studies have shown lack of sleep can reduce your will power and motivation to work out, your body’s ability to make muscle and to use insulin and increases your body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone that is associated with weight gain.

Myth: You will lose weight as you get toned.

Fact: Sometimes! For many women, improving muscle mass can initially result in a higher number on the scale. Remember, muscle weighs more than fat. If you are adding muscle and lowering your body fat, how your clothes fit will tell you if your hard work is paying off – not how much you weigh.

Out of discouragement, many women will decrease or eliminate their strength training. It is critical to continue a well-rounded exercise program even if you do not see results right away. Give your body time to adjust to the new stimulus — at least 8-12 weeks. Constantly change and progress your exercises to avoid plateauing.

Myth: You need to deprive yourself of calories to obtain and maintain a lean physique.

Fact: Your body needs energy in order to produce energy. Depriving yourself of calories may result in decreased muscle mass, among other negative side effects that will impact your metabolism. However, you need to give your body the right kinds of calories. Proper nutrition is the fuel your body needs to support muscle recovery, maintain energy and boost motivation for exercise. Eating for proper nutrition can also increase your metabolism, helping you to burn fat more efficiently. Complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein are all needed to help build muscle and improve overall health. It never hurts to consult with a registered dietitian or track your daily and weekly eating habits with a food log to avoid over-eating and ensure you consume the calories your body needs.

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range here. 

Related Posts



  1. While you’re talking about myths, please correct the myth “muscle weighs more than fat”. A pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh exactly the same, a pound. This comment is one of my pet peeves. Muscle is leaner, which is why the goal should be to replace fat with muscle for a healthier and leaner body.

  2. Okay – I have to be the science person here. A pound is a pound, whether or not it’s fat or muscle. If you get hit with a ton of marshmallows or a ton of bricks, you still got hit with 2,000 pounds. However, muscle is denser than fat, so a pound of fat will take up more real estate on your body than a pound of muscle. Therefore, the scale really shouldn’t go up if you’re working out, but your clothes should fit better.

  3. Thank you both for that wonderful insight, Lorie and Susan. I loved the analogies.
    Great article, Kate.

  4. It is too unfortunate that there is so much stock put into BMI.
    When BMI is measured on a lean person with a very muscular body the number indicates that the person is obese.

  5. Thanks!Very interesting information!

  6. The whole pound to pound thing is funny, but just ignore it as a “health writer” with no actual science or math background. I’m pretty sure they meant to make the analogy by comparing the unit of volume to weight(mass*(A)). Fat is less dense than muscle thus the difference in weight if you have the same volume of matter on a scale. That’s why a kind of fat person can actually weigh the same as a kind of fit person. They will look different, but their weights are the same.

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.