In last week’s edition of Old Man Fitness, we discussed a number of myths associated with working out that have become so ingrained in the popular consciousness that many of us mistake them for facts. This week, we’re diving right back into that same pile of wives tales, marketing gimmicks and misconceptions about fitness that have managed to worm their way into our brains.

Some of these exercise related myths are harmless enough, others may impede your progress or empty your wallet, but the worst of them can actually result in injuries.

It’s important to note, however, that believing in some of these common myths doesn’t make you foolish or gullible – they’re common for a reason. A combination of contemporary media culture and good old-fashioned human hard wiring has left us particularly susceptible to misinformation about our own health. Our culture (and our media that both reflects and creates it) has long had a bad habit of accepting the opinions and ideas of respected or popular people as facts — and while this has become a focal point of partisan bickering in American politics as of late, it’s been going on since long before our two-party system devolved into gang warfare.

However, it’s actually a little known trait of the human psyche called “source amnesia” that really allows these fake facts to take root inside our brains. Put simply, source amnesia occurs when you remember something, but not where you learned it. For instance, you may know for a fact that giraffes are native to Africa… but can you remember where you first learned that? Probably not – you can make guesses about classes, documentaries, or logical leaps you made as a kid, but unless you’ve been to Africa and seen the giraffes, you’re recounting a fact without any sense of your original source. It makes sense for our brains to work that way, because in most cases, where you learn something from doesn’t matter nearly as much as what it was… unless what you learned happens to be utter bullcrap.

Ya know, bullcrap like …

Myth #1: Static stretching is good before a workout.

We all remember the stretching exercises we had to do at the start of gym class – and if you served in the military, you can probably still recall your platoon sergeant counting out the cadence as you count the repetitions of your butterfly and calf stretches… we all assumed we needed to put that time in to avoid injury and maximize our performance in the workout to come, but it turns out that neither was really true.

Turns out I’m far more likely to get hurt by falling off this bike than I am for skipping my stretching routine.

Studies have shown that, at best, static stretching does little to prevent injury, and at worst, may even compromise your performance. Some of those studies have even specifically shown consistently weaker performance out of athletes that begin with static stretching, while others have demonstrated little to no effect whatsoever on the likelihood of injury.