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9 Common Gym Mistakes

WebMD provides insight into common mistakes that can lessen the impact of your exercise routine.
By Annabelle Robertson
WebMD Feature

You’ve been going to the gym every week -- several times a week, in fact. You’ve taken classes, lifted weights, and sweated more than Muhammad Ali. But every time you climb on that scale, your weight stays the same.

What’s with that? Isn’t working out the sure-fire way to lose extra pounds?

Not if you’re making the same exercise mistakes that many do in the gym.  

“The lifestyle that is involved with maintaining a healthy body weight involves more than what you put in your mouth,” says James A. Peterson, PhD, FACSM, the author of more than 80 books on health, nutrition, and exercise. “Many people think that if you go into the gym and bump up against a weight machine, you’re going to lose weight.”

Peterson, who oversaw the exercise program at West Point for nearly 20 years, says that misconceptions abound when it comes to maximizing weight loss through working out. One such example is confusing sweating with burning calories.

“Sweating just means you have a hyperactive internal system,” he says. “It doesn’t have a single thing to do with losing weight, or with burning calories, which is how much work you do. Also, sweating is all water weight -- which is all replaced once you take in liquid again. It doesn’t mean anything.”

A far bigger problem with weight control, however, is that many people simply don’t know how to exercise properly.

“They don’t know how to use the machines. They don’t know how to design and follow a proper exercise regimen, so they get in there and go through the motions, and don’t achieve a lot,” Peterson says. “Then, when they get discouraged, they go back to the lifestyle factors that caused the weight increase in the first place.”

So what else might you be doing wrong during your workout? Check out these frequent faux pas.

Exercise Mistake #1: Too much socializing, not enough exercising.

“I see a lot of individuals talking with each other in the gym,” says Scott Lucett, director of education for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a certified personal trainer for more than 15 years. “Next thing they know, an hour has passed and the amount of time they have actually spent exercising is relatively low.” So focus on your workout -- and save the chit-chat for the juice bar.

Exercise Mistake #2: Lack of intensity.

Do you see your gym time as the perfect way to catch up on your reading? Are you leaning on the machines? Lots of people are just going through the motions, even though they may look like they’re working out. “They think that as long as they’re moving, they’re going to lose weight,” Lucett says. “But if the intensity is not at the level that it needs to be at, it’s almost a waste of time.”

In addition to increasing your intensity levels, Peterson also recommends working out for longer periods of time, increasing weights and distance, cross-training, working out on an incline, and maximizing your body weight while working out, by using a weighted vest or ankle weights, for example.

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