The 6 most overused health and fitness terms

The 6 most overused health and fitness terms

Sin bin

Text: Yeong Sassall

Buro's resident trainer James Anderson wants YOU to get enlightened

I think you're either in one of two boats when it comes to health and fitness. 

1. You're either someone who loves new, fun, exciting, never-seen-before-but-it's-really-the-same-thing-from-the-90s-just-repackaged-into-something-with-a-different-name (aka "fad" or "marketing ploy"). 


2. You're not. 

There are a few things that need to be cleaned up when it comes to the most common buzzwords in health and fitness. How many of these six most overused and misinterpreted terms in health and fitness are you guilty of using?

1. "Toned"

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If I had a nickel for every time I heard the word "toned" as someone's goal, apart from the fact I'd be a pretty poor man after converting it into Australian Dollars, I'd still have more money than if I waited for someone to ask the right thing - which would be: "I want to maintain (or build) muscle whilst simultaneously dropping body fat". 

I know, I know - yes, it's much harder to say, but "toned" is an esoteric term as it's entirely subjective and really can't be measured in anything other than a person's head. So, the next time you're listing out goals with a trainer, converse in a language that will actually make sense i.e. body fat percentages, because that which can be measured, can be managed. 

Oh, and just to clear up a few of the most common misconceptions around muscle toning: Muscles don't have the ability to be shaped and sensually moulded like the clay between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore's hands. Muscles are attached to bones by strong things called tendons, and although you may think you can create a longer muscle, you can't. You can change the length-tension relationship in the muscle, but a lot of the "shape" will often painfully be determined by your genetics. 

Oh, and no amount of "muscle toning" will take you from 5-foot-nothing to 6ft-foot-something, ever. Soz.

2. "Tabata"

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If you've ever said anything close to "OMG I just did the best 30min Tabata session" then I am sorry to burst your bubble, but you didn't. What you did do was a 2:1 ratio interval session using work periods of 20 seconds with rest periods of 10 seconds, for 8 cycles, then you turned it into a training session. That's it.

Don't get me wrong, that style of workout is an awesome interval session - it's just not a Tabata. I could go on about this for the rest of the article but thankfully our very own fitness expert Veronika Larisova has done this for me in her article.

But, if you're too busy to spare 4 minutes to read it after your 30 minute faux-bata session this morning, then just think about it like this - just because I may part my hair the same way, wear the same clothes, drink the same drink, and basically try to emulate his character from the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love. I still don't walk around calling myself Ryan Gosling, so stop calling it Tabata. 

3. "Gluten-free"

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Yes, ensuring your diet is completely gluten-free is most definitely "a thing" (for some). And yes, some people are genuinely allergic or intolerant to gluten. Unfortunately, these people have celiac disease and can't eat anything containing gluten for fear of sickness, illness, and in extreme cases, death. But, celiac disease affects fewer than 1 in 100 people. That's it. 

However, go to your local cafe these days and you'll find the majority of people ordering up a storm of gluten-free sadness... I mean goodness... (no, I don't). 

Newsflash: Cutting a whole food group from your diet isn't healthy. Cardboard-tasting food aside, although reducing your intake of bread and pasta may aid weight loss due to the reduction in calories this creates, there's no need to ban gluten when you don't need to, especially seeing as there's no evidence to support gluten sensitivity. 

Now, I do however believe that there are better options for gluten intake such as wholegrain bread over that highly processed nutrient-void stuff. And I also believe that people tend to overconsume carbohydrates and should be more conscious of this. But, Vladimir Gluten isn't the problem. 

**Oh, and for the love of god, stop thinking it makes you a better person - in fact, it makes you intolerable to eat out with**

4. "Guilt-free treats"

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Let's set the record straight once and for all, as this marketing ploy is often more guilty of ruining your body composition than when Uber delivers ice-cream to your office. So, let's clear things up. 

1. They're not guilt-free if you end up eating the entire box. An overconsumption of ANY calories is still an overconsumption of calories, "healthy" or not.

2. You should never feel guilty about eating food, this is one of the reasons why we've developed such an unhealthy relationship with food. It's about enjoyment... in moderation.

5. "Functional training"

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How "functional" your training depends entirely on your goals. For example, if you want to run a marathon, then the act of running would be highly functional training, right? The same could be said if you're a bodybuilder and wanted bigger biceps - bicep curls would be a functional movement.  

It comes down to this good versus evil mentality again as people now seem to use the term functional to refer to any exercise that requires extra balance and coordination, making claims such as standing on one leg on a Swiss ball with my left eye closed and hair parted to the right side is the only way to train and that anything else will probably lead to cancer. Being strong, fit and healthy for whatever goal you have is your type of functional training. 

6. "Fat-burning food/exercise"

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STFU, seriously. There's only one thing that's guaranteed to burn fat, and that's a calorie deficit - where you're burning more calories than you consume. This is best done through a combination of diet and consistent training.

Yes, some exercises burn more calories, and therefore potentially more fat than others. But if you're eating all those guilt-free treats and overconsuming calories, I don't care how many squat jumps you're doing, it ain't a fat burning exercise.  How much fat you burn really comes down to your calorie intake as well as the frequency, regularity and intensity of your sessions. 

In conclusion
Look, I don't think we need to completely stop using any of these terms, but maybe we just need to use them a little less.  It's great to be fit, active and to watch what you eat, but there's no need to get caught up in all the latest trends, and overuse words that either don't have much meaning, or mean something entirely different to someone else.

On the whole, if something includes any of the buzzwords from this article, it's probably worth doing some research before you bet your life on it being your fat loss or fitness saviour.


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