Part of my role as a fitness professional/medical exercise specialist is to help people who are overwhelmed by their circumstances.

Getting into great shape isn’t always easy or straight forward and is especially true when an injury or chronic medical condition is involved.

Fortunately, while exercising and eating right does require effort, it doesn’t have to be complicated and can actually be quite simple when you get the right advice.

Considering this, I thought I would list some of the worst advice my friends, clients and colleagues have heard, or even received over the years.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be presenting 15 pieces of really bad advice that no one should follow if they are trying be as fit, healthy and active as possible. Here are the first eight:

1. Work through the pain, just dig deep and “suck it up!” A trainer actually screamed this at one of my clients (before we met) when her knee was hurting while trying to push a weighted sled across the gym floor. She was in her 60s at the time and waiting to have a knee replacement. The outcome was an exacerbation of her pain and increase in her disability.

2. A young woman I know was training for a marathon and advised to do her workouts on an empty stomach so that she could “burn more fat.” She tried it and collapsed, very nearly passing out. Running in a “fasted” state is risky and should not be part of a marathon training plan where proper nutrition can make the difference between a great run and a near disaster.

3. After injuring his lower back and causing a disc herniation, a gentleman I know found advice on YouTube which suggested a series of stretches to “massage” his sciatic nerve. Trying to treat an injury by watching videos online is never a good idea. Without a proper diagnosis and care plan, the risk of creating serious, long term health problems is high.

4. In an effort to lose weight in his 20s, a client of mine told me that he was advised to follow a 1,000 calorie per day diet and to run wearing a plastic garbage bag … while also taking laxatives to “flush out” his system. Not only is this weight loss method doomed to fail, it is incredibly risky and likely to cause short and long term health problems without helping the exerciser achieve his goal of sustainable weight loss.

5. Do aqua fitness to get stronger when you have osteoporosis because it is “safe.” Water exercise is incredibly effective for all fitness levels and great for strength and endurance training and can even be fun. Having said that, the most important consideration for osteoporosis exercise is to move “against gravity” which is mostly non-existent while floating or walking in water. Weight lifting, stair climbing and hiking would be much more effective ways to build bone mass.

6. Don’t lift weights overhead if you are over 40. One of my clients actually received this, unsolicited, advice after she had been training with me for more than two years. In that time, she had never been injured, had lost 50 lb and was fitter than she had ever been. Not being able to lift something overhead (at any age) would disqualify you from many parts of everyday life from shopping to placing luggage in an overhead compartment. If you do not have a specific reason that makes lifting overhead harmful, like rotator cuff injury or scoliosis, than lifting overhead should absolutely be part of your training program.

7. You need to do 500 sit ups per day to get a six pack. The idea that working a certain body part will burn fat in that area, or “shrink” a certain spot is an old one that still hasn’t died. It comes mostly from unscrupulous marketers looking to sell worthless gadgets or devices (like the Ab Roller or Thigh Master) to desperate consumers. 500 sit ups (or crunches) per day will develop the muscles in your abdomen, but, you will be no closer to a six pack unless you also modify your diet and participate in an overall strength and endurance program.

8. Never use the machines at the gym because they restrict your motion too much. In my opinion, whenever you hear advice that contains the words “never,” “none” or “all,” a red flag has been raised. No workouts, equipment or programs are inherently good or bad; they all have their place in an overall health and fitness plan. In the case of the “machines” at the gym, they are great for isolating specific muscles and provide a safe entry point for beginners who might not have the balance or co-ordination yet to handle free weights or body weight exercise.


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