Myths that Build Barriers. Part One: No Pain No Gain

myth truth.jpgWhen I read the statistic that only 20% of the US population are getting the recommended amount of exercise consistently enough to reap the benefits, I wonder “what is getting in the way?!”  There is certainly no shortage of reasons to exercise, yet there are plenty of barriers too.  Lack of time, pain issues, low motivation are very real barriers.   However, these barriers are built up by myths about exercise, kept alive by infomercials, reality TV shows and “fitness experts” selling their own personal (not science based) success formula.  Movement is a science.  Lets rely on science rather than myths to keep moving and be well.

We will tacno-pain-no-gainkle the biggest myth first: “No Pain No Gain!

I find this one seeps into everything from infomercials to even the more well-regarded articles and podcasts.   The idea that muscles need to be sore to get stronger is offered as a fact, even though there is no scientific basis for it when we are talking about exercising to improve health and well-being.

Part of the confusion is that in sports and military training, pain is just part of the package.  To excel and compete in these activities, the body needs to be pushed  beyond its limits.  Pain will be part of that.  Yet we have discussed how training for athletics and training for well-being are opposites. Since this is where many of us learn about exercise, and sports are a big part of our culture, it makes sense that the myth lives on.  When listening to any information about exercise, be aware of this confusion. The sports training is so often intertwined with discussions about exercise for well-being they can seem like one and the same.  But we know they are not.  Please spread the word!

Reality TV shows certainly do their part to keep this myth alive as well.  They send the motivation sapping message that in order to lose weight you must suffer. If you are not suffering, you must not want it bad enough!  Reality TV shows are NOT reality.  They are not science based. They are concerned about keeping viewers (period).

If you are looking to help you body lose fat and preserve muscle and metabolism, soreness is not needed, nor is it helpful.  Start with a light intensity and over a few weeks gradually work up to challenging your muscles.  Starting with a very challenging workout is like over-watering a small seedling of a plant – it is too much of a good thing and prevents, rather than promotes growth.     Some light soreness is normal with any new activity, but if it happens with each workout, and /or if it is so intense that you do not want to move, it was too much.  It is pain without gain.

Bottom line:  If you are looking to exercise to improve health and well-being,  learning to move without pain is the goal!  Striving to enjoy movement, as a source of boosting mood, energy and vitality is how we truly gain from exercise in the long run.

Keep Moving, Be Well,


Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery.  Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center

These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.



by | January 10, 2017 · 9:19 pm

2 responses to “Myths that Build Barriers. Part One: No Pain No Gain

  1. Pingback: Myth #8: The Fitness “Expert” | Keep Moving Weekly

  2. Pingback: Read between the lines | Keep Moving Weekly

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