The world of fitness is often full of misinformation. People base their results in the gym on anecdotal evidence. And in order to keep profits flowing, the industry often turns to ‘bro science’ to sell products. So, when dealing with gym hearsay, it’s important to stay critical before blindly following advice. The world of Japanese fitness is no different, and when you walk into the gym, regardless of your fitness level, you’ll likely encounter some unique myths. Let’s see if we can bust them.

fitness article - AC photo

Myth 1: Sleeping with your AC off in summer will help you burn fat faster

A concept thrown around a lot in Japanese gyms is that if you sleep with your AC off in the summer, you’ll burn fat faster. The basic idea is if you go to bed hot, you’ll burn more fat while sleeping. This will compound with the fat you’re burning at the gym and turn you into a lean fat loss machine. Does this hold up?

It is true that if you weigh yourself at night, sleep hot, then weigh yourself in the morning, you’ll likely notice a drop in weight of up to over 1kg. The problem is that none of that lost weight is fat. What’s actually happening when you sleep while hot is simple – you’re sweating out water into your sheets. You do burn fat when you sleep but it has more to do with metabolism than outside factors. Incidentally, your metabolism is proven to function more optimally for fat burning when you sleep in a cold place.

Furthermore, any weight loss from heat will be put back on through drinking more water. Everyone is different, but ultimately the most important factor in real tangible fat loss is getting a good night’s sleep to recover from being active. Optimal recovery plays a much bigger role in training than the temperature and its effects on your body functions. So, set your AC to a temperature that will allow you to sleep comfortably through the night.

Myth status: Busted

train handrail

Myth 2: Standing on the train will help you lose weight

If you mention to your co-workers in Japan that you are trying to lose weight, someone will inevitably suggest that you try standing on the train instead of sitting. The idea is that by standing on a train that is rocking you must use more stabilizing muscles, thus burning more calories passively every time you commute.

Scientifically speaking, it makes sense that standing on a moving train will burn more calories than sitting down. It does take more core strength and balance to stand, especially when things are shaking. When you use more muscles, you do burn more calories. So, this myth tracks, right? Well, yes and no. You would be burning more calories and thus losing weight quicker, but the question here becomes: Is the loss significant? To which the answer is unfortunately no.

The calorie burn can be hard to measure and depends on how much the train moves and your own body weight. But, rough estimates seem to indicate it could burn up to 50 calories per hour more than sitting down. To put that into context, if you stand on a train for 1 hour, you’ll have burned enough calories to eat almost 1/3 of a banana at best.

The calorie difference between sitting and standing really doesn’t mean much and there are better options to jump-start your weight loss. Walking up the stairs instead of taking the escalator, for example, makes a much more significant difference. Or, you could try getting off a stop early and walking a bit longer. Unfortunately, just standing, won’t really make or break a diet.

Myth status: Accurate but inconsequential

targeted fat loss

Myth 3: Targeting fat loss in specific spots helps

While the concept of using a special machine to target fat loss exists around the world, Japan has many particularly egregious examples. The Japanese fitness industry is all about selling new gadgets to get rid of fat in the one spot they’re sure you’re most insecure about.

Unfortunately, targeted fat loss is not a thing that happens. These machines will strengthen the muscles they target. An ab roller will give you a killer ab workout, and that isn’t a bad thing. The problem is that while you can target specific muscle to make them bigger, fat burns off from your body as a whole when you are eating fewer calories than you burn in the day. Abs especially are one of the last places your body clings to fat, only really getting that lean 6 pack when you’re around a total of 10% body fat.

Moreover, everyone has different areas where fat disappears faster than others. The human body is an immensely complex interconnected organism and fat isn’t something you can just rub out of one specific spot. The only real way to get rid of stubborn fat is by exercising and dieting for general weight loss until it goes away.

Myth Status: Busted

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