1. Health

Avoid these common exercise errors

Rich Hutchins does an elbow knew combo as part of his bird dog exercise. For Sally Anderson's monthly Step by Step column for LifeTimes.
Rich Hutchins does an elbow knew combo as part of his bird dog exercise. For Sally Anderson's monthly Step by Step column for LifeTimes.
Published Sep. 19, 2015

"We do not stop exercising because we grow old — we grow old because we stop exercising."

Dr. Kenneth Cooper of the Cooper Institute

There are so many ways to make honest mistakes. Fortunately, not all of those mistakes cause injuries.

However, constantly repeating exercise mistakes will reduce the quality of the exercise and could put you at risk for pulled muscles and other injuries. Whether you are lifting weights, working out on machines or performing body-weight exercises, proper form is critical. For that reason, I would say the very first mistake most people make when beginning their fitness journey is not taking the time to learn the correct technique for the exercises they will be performing.

And then there is the weekend warrior. With the increase of endurance competitions, there is a growing trend toward people jumping into the arena at full speed, with no regard to the conditioning that is needed before the event.

Here are a few common exercise errors:

Skipping warmups and cool-downs: A five- or 10- minute warmup, depending on the intensity of the workout, revs up the circulation and gradually increases the heart rate; muscles react more efficiently when they are warm. A five- or 10-minute cool-down, which gradually decreases the exercise intensity, helps to bring your heart rate back to its normal resting rate.

Ignoring stretching: Stretching is the most neglected of all components of fitness. Stretching will help keep your body limber and make you more agile for the years ahead. Static stretching should be performed slowly with control, ideally at the end of a workout, when muscles are warm. The oft-seen ballistic stretching (fast, jerky bouncing) can cause overstretching, placing too much strain on muscles.

Using the speed of momentum: This ranks high on the exercise error list. Instead of swinging the weights up and down, which can increase the risk of joint injuries and strain the back, slow the tempo. Focusing on control when lowering the weights will actually increase intensity without the added risk of injury.

Being a "gym slouch": When using a stair climber, elliptical or treadmill, many exercisers allow their upper bodies to fall forward. When this happens, your spine does not receive the support it needs. Remind yourself to stand tall.

Not drinking enough water: Drink before you are thirsty. Thirst can signal the start of dehydration. Cramps, often in the calves or feet, occur when too much fluid is lost through sweating.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at


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