The Top 10 Exercise Myths Debunked

1. NO PAIN, NO GAIN. This one's been around forever. Sure, exercise can occasionally be uncomfortable, particularly if you're training to reach a particular goal, but pain is generally a sign of injury or overuse. Numerous studies confirm the benefits of moderate exercise, which is usually anything but painful.

2. TO BURN MORE FAT, EXERCISE AT A LOWER INTENSITY. Several years ago, a study showed that people burned a larger percentage of fat (vs. carbohydrates) while exercising at a lower intensity as compared to a higher intensity. Unfortunately, the total number of calories burned during lower-intensity exercise is much smaller than the total number burned while exercising intensely.

3. SPORTS DRINKS ARE BETTER THAN WATER DURING EXERCISE. Unless you're working out for longer than two hours per day, you really don't need to supplement with high-energy sports drinks. While sports drinks do provide additional minerals, high-energy is often a code word for high-calorie, which is the last thing someone who is trying to lose weight needs. Plenty of water is sufficient for most exercisers' needs.

4. YOU CAN REDUCE THE SIZE OF YOUR WAIST OR THIGHS BY DOING SPECIFIC EXERCISES. This is called the myth of spot reducing and has incited millions of women to perform countless leg lifts in the hopes of achieving slimmer thighs. The same is true for men, who do hundreds of sit-ups to reduce their midsections. The only surefire way to lose weight and slim down all over (short of surgery) is a sensible combination of diet and exercise.

5. WOMEN WHO WEIGHT TRAIN WILL BUILD BULKY MUSCLES. Sure, some women are more genetically predisposed to build muscle than others, but without high levels of the male hormone testosterone, most women would be hard-pressed to develop muscles like their male counterparts. Besides, strength training has proved essential for maintaining bone strength and overall health.

6. TO LOSE WEIGHT, DO LOTS OF AEROBIC EXERCISE. While aerobic exercise is widely regarded for its calorie-burning effect, strength training is an equal partner in the weight-loss equation. Strength training increases muscle mass, and more muscle means more calories burned.

7. IF YOU'RE THIN, YOU DON'T NEED TO EXERCISE. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Exercise has been proved to reduce the risk of numerous diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It also reduces the effects of stress, lowers anxiety, enhances sleep and improves overall quality of life.

8. EXERCISE IS ONLY ABOUT IMPROVING APPEARANCE. See above.

9. IF YOU WEREN'T ACTIVE AS A CHILD, YOU CAN'T BE AN ACTIVE ADULT. Adults well into their 80s and 90s have shown dramatic increases in strength from weight training, according to several studies. The truth is, it's never too late to start exercising because it's possible to start reaping the benefits of activity at any age. The key is to start slowly and gradually increase intensity over time.

10. IF YOU EXERCISE, YOU CAN EAT AS MUCH AS YOU WANT. If only it were true. Unfortunately, while exercise does increase calorie burning and aid in weight-loss efforts, it cannot combat the effects of overeating. But even if you cap your workouts off with a hot fudge sundae, you'll still gain numerous health benefits from exercising regularly.