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Categories > Exercise and Fitness > Benefits of exercise

Shape up!

If you’re working hard, but hardly seeing results, take a look at your fitness routine and see whether you can spot some of these top mistakes:

  1. No warm-ups, no cooldowns. Warming up your muscles gets them ready for exercise and prevents injury, while cooling down helps improve flexibility, reduces soreness and preps your muscles for next time. To warm up, try a brisk walk for five to 10 minutes. To cool down, do the same but at a slower pace.
  2. Bad form. Jerking weights instead of lifting them in controlled motions can lead to injury. Instead, select a weight you can lift just 12 times. Lift to a count of two, then lower to a count of three or four. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions, increase the weight by up to 10 percent.
  3. Leaning on equipment. If you find yourself draped over the stair stepper, slow down the pace—until you can stand up straight and lightly hold the handrails to keep your balance.
  4. Unrealistic goals. Vows to lose 100 pounds in three months or to go to the gym every single day just aren’t realistic, and eventually you’ll give up. Create a program based on your abilities and work toward your goal.
  5. Body-part obsession. Having a flat tummy is a swimsuit-season plus, but to build a strong body, you need to work all the major muscle groups. Try a routine that incorporates cardio and strength training.
  6. Too much, too little. Lifting too much weight or exercising too hard can lead to burnout and injury, while workouts that are too light won’t get your heart rate in the target range. Break a light sweat in a moderate exercise routine.
  7. Same old, same old. Repeating the same workout can lead to boredom and fitness plateaus and you being a quitter. Try doing different activities on different days. Tai chi on Tuesdays, water aerobics on Wednesdays and so on.
  8. H2 oh no! Dehydration can leave you feeling weak, which means you won’t get the most out of your workout. Thirst may not occur until you’re nearly dehydrated, so keep a water bottle handy.
  9. Lack of attention. Watching TV or reading can help pass the time on an exercise bike, but it may also slow you down. Instead, bring along some music to get you pumped up.
  10. Mmmm … energy bars. Grazing on high-calorie energy bars and sports drinks isn’t recommended if you work out less than two hours a day. Stick with water and an apple.