2015 is officially here, and with it has come a rise in the number of people interested in exercising to lose weight or increase their fitness levels. Unfortunately, not all exercise routines are created equally. Because of this, poorly developed fitness routines often do very little good for your health; in fact, they can even cause serious harm in the worst cases.

Bogus fitness articles and even incorrect “common knowledge” exercise tips can all contribute to bad fitness routines that can ruin your health-oriented efforts. So to help guide you down the path to a proper fitness routine, we want to take a look at 7 common exercise myths that you should ditch as you launch yourself into this new year:

1. The Myth: Some exercises are better for men and some are better for women.

The Reality: Not quite! A common fitness myth features the idea that men and women are hugely different at a structural level, and thus need to focus on different exercises when working out. But in actuality, while there are some differences between men and women, both genders have the same basic body structure. So while there are some gender-based hormonal and even psychological factors to consider, ultimately both men and women will benefit from doing well-balanced workouts with exercises that address their entire body – something that both men and women tend to forget to do.

2.The Myth: Using a machine for aerobic exercise is less stressful on your body and joints than jogging outdoors on pavement or asphalt.

The Reality: It really depends on which machine you're using. Any exercise will inevitably create some stress on your body; it's just a question of choosing an exercise that creates the least amount of stress. For example, while jogging has lots of overall benefits, it's still a high-impact exercise; in fact, the force of your body weight on your joints is the same whether you jog outside on pavement or inside on a treadmill. Instead of doing high-impact exercises, you're better off replacing them with alternatives when possible; simply using stationary bikes or elliptical machines will help keep your knees in shape and still let you benefit from a good workout.

3. The Myth: Exercising on an empty stomach will burn more fat.

The Reality: Exercising on an empty stomach has been to shown to have minimal benefits if you’re looking to burn more fat. In fact, this approach can sometimes do more harm than good. Remember, our bodies are designed to hold onto fat if they feel that our survival is in danger. So if you exercise on an empty stomach, your body will naturally assume that you don’t have access to any nutrients, and as a result will burn more muscle than fat. Since strong muscles are important for our health, and exercising without eating first will probably result in a sloppy workout, you’re really better off eating a reasonable meal or even two before hitting the gym.

4. The Myth: Shakes and juices will keep me energized and help my exercise efforts.

The Reality: Shakes and juices are not the best way to fuel your workouts. Both are typically filled with sugar and cheap supplements that in no way replace the nutritional value of actual foods. In fact, since these drinks don’t typically keep you full and thus result in you eating more calories to make up for this, they can contribute to ruining the benefits of a workout if you’re exercising to lose weight. You’re better off just eating actual fruits, vegetables or proteins to fuel your workouts; they’ll keep you feeling full for longer and will also encourage your metabolism to work harder for longer.

5. The Myth: One particular set of exercises will target one particular area of fat!

The Reality: Using one set of exercises to target a problem area will not lead to weight loss in that area; our bodies like to lose a small amount of weight from our entire frame one little bit at a time, and there's no way to change this. If you want to lose any weight in any area, you’ll have to create a work-out routine that balances strength and cardiovascular exercises alike. This will encourage muscle development – which will boost your metabolism – and also lead to a lower body fat content overall, not just in the area you’re trying to target.

6. The Myth: No sweat and no pain = no gain.

The Reality: This two-part myth definitely needs to go. For starters, sweating occurs when your body needs to cool down, so it’s entirely possible to get your heart rate up without breaking into a heavy sweat. A brisk walk, intense swimming exercise or light weight training can all burn calories and increase muscle tone without making you sweat. Remember, the “gain” from workouts is all about their intensity and quality. So don’t feel pressured to push yourself up to a sweat – and never push yourself to exercise when you’re in pain.

Of course, pain does not equal soreness – but while a little soreness is normal when starting a new routine, pain is never acceptable. Pain means that your body is being pushed past its limits or has even been injured. If you do experience pain while working out, stop immediately and give yourself time to heal or to see a doctor, if necessary. During this off-time, you can figure out if you pushed yourself too hard or if you performed an exercise incorrectly. Once you know what you did wrong, you can fix your mistake and get back to a healthy workout routine.

7. The Myth: Exercise makes up for all of my other bad habits.

The Reality: Exercise is only part of an overall healthy lifestyle. In fact as little as 20% of your overall health or appearance is usually based on your exercise routines – which means things like your diet have a much bigger impact on your health overall. So whether you’re exercising to lose weight or boost certain areas of your health, bad habits like excessive snacking will need to go away before you can reap the full benefits of your exercise efforts.

Now that you know which exercise tips to trust and which ones to ditch, you can begin to develop a much more successful exercise routine that will help you reach your New Year goals. However, we also want to remind you that simply exercising more is not the only health goal you could be shooting for this year. After all, there are lots of small and concrete changes we can all make that support a better lifestyle overall. If you're unsure about exactly what other changes would support a healthier lifestyle of your own, you're more than welcome to visit our offices for a general exam and a chance to discuss personalized health improvement strategies for 2015.