group jogging
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Just Do It … Right

Exercise can help your physical, mental, and emotional health, give you more energy, and even be a boost for your social and sex lives. Experts recommend 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. But watch out for a few pitfalls that can make you do more harm than good.

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to do lists in car
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You Bail Out

Skipping workouts “just because” can set you back, especially if you’re on an exercise program. Not only does it make it harder for you to reach your goals, but you also can lose some of the progress you’ve made.

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woman eating banana
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You Have a Meal Right Before

If you eat a meal within 2 hours before working out, your body will be digesting that food, and blood won’t flow as well to your muscles. That can affect your post-workout recovery and lead to cramps and nausea. Instead, try a light snack like peanut butter and a banana, Greek yogurt and berries, oatmeal, or a handful of nuts or raisins.

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woman warming up
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You Don’t Warm Up

Starting your workout without warming up may save a few minutes, but it isn’t a good idea. Your body needs the warmup to raise your body temperature and get your blood flowing, to help loosen up your muscles and give you more range of motion. It can be something as simple as light walking, jogging, or biking for 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to stretch before warming up.

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man stretching
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You Bounce When You Stretch

You’re more likely to hurt your muscles or make them tighter if you move around when you stretch. Hold each one steady for 20 to 30 seconds. There is a type called ballistic stretching that calls for bouncing, but you shouldn’t try it without working with a professional trainer or coach first.  

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woman on treadmill
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You Don’t Have Good Posture

This can limit your progress and could lead to a fall or an injury. For example, be careful not to lean on equipment, like a treadmill, while you’re using it. And if you’re lifting weights, try to keep your back straight and your shoulders back and relaxed. Don’t lock your knees, either.

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man weight lifting
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You Hold Your Breath

You might do this without even knowing it. But it’s important to pay attention to your breathing. Holding your breath limits the amount of oxygen coming into your body. If you hold it too long, you might pass out. When you’re lifting heavy weights, take a deep breath before you start a set, then gradually let it out as you go. 

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woman lifting kettlebell
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You Slack On Your Form

This can keep you from targeting the right areas and limit your range of motion. It can actually make you weaker and damage your muscles. Use lighter weights and perfect your form before moving on to the heavier stuff.

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fitness training session
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You Stray From Your Plan

If you’re just starting out, you may be tempted to try too many things too quickly. You can get overwhelmed and do too much. Set goals and know which muscle groups you want to target before you start your workout.

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man lifting barbell
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You Ignore Your Limitations

Don’t try to lift more weight than you can handle. You can get hurt, and it can mess up your technique. When you do go for more weight, add only a little at a time and get comfortable with it before going further.  

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group weight lifting
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You’re Too Competitive

It’s natural to want to compare yourself with others, but don’t change your workout, or try to lift too much to keep up with someone else. You don’t know their experience or skill level, so it’s best to stay within your limits and focus on your goals.

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group cycling at gym
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You Socialize Too Much

While the gym is a good place to meet people, talking while you work out may not be a good idea. It’s best to concentrate on what you’re doing and keep chats between sets or between exercises short. There’s plenty of time for that before or after the session. On the other hand, if you can hold a normal conversation while working out, you're probably not overdoing it.

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woman lifting hand weight
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You Go Heavy All the Time

Even if you’ve set a goal of getting stronger, you should mix things up -- do more reps with lighter weight and fewer reps with moderate or heavy weight. Training with heavy weights every time you work out can actually keep you from adding muscle and raise your chance of injury. You might vary your workouts with moderate-, heavy-, and light-weight days.

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senior ab class
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You Only Do What You Like

You may like some exercises better than others -- probably the ones you’re best at -- but you need to work all muscle groups. Targeting the same ones all the time can make it hard for them to recover. Try to focus on different spots and develop each of them.

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woman drinking water
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You Don’t Take Water Breaks

Staying hydrated is important for cooling off your body and keeping your blood flowing. Drink water before your workout, then 6 to 8 ounces for every 15 minutes you’re active, then some more once you’re done.

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senior woman holding wrist
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You Don’t Know When to Stop

You may have heard the saying “No pain, no gain,” but serious pain can mean you’re using too much weight or it’s time to stop. Pushing through can lead to injury. If you’re starting out, it’s normal to have some soreness for a day or so after working out. If it lasts longer, it probably means you should cut back.

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couple stretching
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You Don't Cool Down

Once you finish, you should ease out with some mild stretching. This can help get your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing back to normal levels.  Stretching your muscles while they’re warm and blood is flowing to them may also help them lengthen and stretch more easily.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 2/17/2018 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 17, 2018

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SOURCES:
Mayo Clinic: “Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity,” “Stretching: Focus On Flexibility.” 
Miami Township Fire-Rescue: “Fall Into Fitness: Workout Mistakes -- External.”
Arthritis Foundation: “Avoiding Common Workout Mistakes,” “7 Dynamic Warm Ups.”
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition.”
Healthy Families British Columbia: “The Dos and Don’ts On Stretching.”
Michigan State University: “Regular Breathing and Proper Posture When Exercising is Important.”
National Health Service: “Do I Need To Stretch Before Exercising?”
ExRx.net: “Ultimate 14 Min. Workout.”
American Council on Exercise: “The Workout Mistakes You Might Be Making.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 17, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.