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9 Common Gym Mistakes

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

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.

Exercise Mistake #3: Always training in the 'fat burning' heart rate zone.

You’ve seen those charts on the cardiovascular machines that list “zones.” But in the so-called “fat-burning zone,” your training intensity isn’t very high -- usually 65%-70% of your heart rate. Research, however, has shown that the higher the intensity, the more calories you burn -- not only while exercising, but after you leave the gym, when your body benefits from an “after-burn” mode.

“It’s as if you turn off your car engine, but the hood is still warm,” Lucett says. “The same thing happens with the body. You need to make sure that your intensity is higher than that chart.” Unable to work out that hard? Work your way up.

Exercise Mistake #4: Overestimating caloric expenditure.

Don’t let the number on the screen of your cardio machine fool you, either. “That’s a very general number and there are a lot of variables that play into that,” Lucett says. “The machine may say that you’ve expended 500 calories, but you could only be burning 250.”

This can be especially true when you do things to “trick” the machine, like leaning on the bars. Unbeknownst to that computer, which relies on speed and revolutions to calculate calories, you’re offsetting your weight, which means you are significantly decreasing the amount of work you’re doing.

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