Push Up Muscle can turn into fat, lifting weights makes you look like Arnold, and a thousand crunches a day will give you a six-pack. Yes, fitness myths are many, and they are persistent — like mosquitoes on a late-summer night.

And they haven’t changed much over the years, according to Shirley Archer, a fitness and wellness educator with the American Council on Exercise.

“People are always engaging in wishful thinking that they can transform their body with minimal effort,” says Archer, who has written many books on health and fitness. “And our sound-bite culture isn’t helping. We stand in the grocery store line, and some headline tells us we can lose 10 pounds in 10 minutes.”

So, let’s take a moment to clear up some of the most common fitness myths.

A higher number on the scale means you’re getting fatter

It depends where those pounds are coming from: fat or muscle. “The difference is the density,” Archer says. A pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. That’s why it’s possible to become leaner and healthier while at the same time gaining weight. “So don’t be overly concerned with a specific number on the scale; it’s more about how you feel,” she says.

Lifting weights makes women bulky

Most women have nothing to worry about in terms of bulking up, says Victor Ibrahim, a team doctor for D.C. United.

“First of all, it requires very intensive training that most people won’t do — like pyramid training,” Ibrahim says. Pyramid training is a system of overloading muscles, working them to exhaustion. Secondly, Ibrahim says, most women lack the testosterone levels to build bulging muscles. Weight training does create some muscle definition, which is something many women want.

“Resistance training is actually essential for toning,” Ibrahim says.

When you stop weight training, muscles turn into fat

“This is like saying that lead can turn into gold,” says Ed Ingebretsen, an American College of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer. “Muscle and fat are two different types of tissue,” Ingebretsen says. When you stop training, you lose muscle mass, which in turn slows your metabolism, he says. The slower metabolism in turn can cause weight gain when you stop working out — but one type of tissue doesn’t “turn into” the other.

Running on a treadmill is better for joints than running outside

Not so for most treadmills, Ibrahim says. “Unless it’s a high-quality, extra-shock-absorbing treadmill, it’s not going to make much of a difference,” he says. And the super shock-absorbing treadmills are not likely to be found in normal gyms, he adds.

Moderate aerobic work puts you in the ideal fat-burning zone

“With any level of exercise you are using a mix of fuels,” Archer says. “Generally, the harder you work, the more fat you burn,” she says. But before you can work at those most intense levels — i.e. anaerobically — you have to build up to it.

“It’s progressive. You have to build some aerobic endurance before you can start working at high-intensity levels,” she says. In other words, walk before you run and run before you sprint — pushing the body progressively.

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