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May 10, 2013

Avoid These 3 Common Exercise Mistakes

exercise mistakesCommon Exercise Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes

To get the most from your exercise program avoid three cardinal exercise mistakes that most individuals make at some point. Many of you are probably making all three of these exercise mistakes preventing you from achieving your desired goals and depriving you from the health benefits of exercise.

So what are these three exercise mistakes? You may find some or all of these exercise mistakes surprising and perhaps even shocking.

The 3 Exercise Mistakes

Mistake 1:  Thinking you can exercise your way to losing weight and becoming thin. This may be the most frequent of these three exercise mistakes. Exercise has many benefits, but losing weight with exercise alone is extremely challenging. This does not mean you cannot lose some weight with exercise – but  losing enough weight to become lean and to achieve a more optimal body composition is not likely to happen with exercise alone.

Yet, the first thing most people say when they decide it’s time to shed some excess weight is, “I’m going to start to exercise”. Good luck. We’ve all seen the person at the fitness club who is 20 pounds overweight and exercises on the stairclimber or stationary cycle day after day and two to three years later they have not lost any weight.

Exercise does help you create a calorie deficit, but as we have harped on this site before there’s much more to weight loss than calories in – calories out. The number of calories actually burned during exercise is quite small compared to the number of calories consumed from eating one slice of white bread or downing a regular soft drink. A 250 pound person would have to walk up 20 flights of stairs to burn the number of calories found in one slice of white bread.

It is virtually impossible to exercise your way out of a poor diet. If you want to lose weight – if that is your primary goal – you have to change the way you eat far more than the way you exercise.

See The Myths About Calories In – Calories Out: Reality Trumps Theory.

Mistake 2:   Focusing on exercise duration rather than exercise intensityMost of us have been conditioned (“brainwashed”) to think that we have to exercise for a long time to get health and fitness benefits from our exercise. When it comes to exercise INTENSITY is the key! When you think about it – intensity is the key to a lot of things. More gets accomplished from 30 minutes of focused concentration and activity than 90 minutes of going through the motions and that’s true whether it be in the gym, in the classroom, or on the job.

It’s hard to improve – get faster, get stronger, get more flexible – if you do not approach your maximal level in any of these fitness parameters. How much are you really benefiting from exercising for 30 minutes at a heart rate of 120 when your maximum heart rate may be 165? You will get some benefit in cardiovascular endurance, but not as much as you’re hoping.

If you can do 20 push-ups without stopping how is doing 15 going to get you stronger? It’s not. You have to do 20, rest, then try to do another 20, and so on. If you do that, guess what?  Some day you’ll be able to 24 push ups without stopping.

Intensity, IntenSITY, INTENSITY is the key when exercising.

Mistake 3:  Exercising aerobically rather than anaerobically. Of the three exercise mistakes we’ve discussed this may be the hardest to accept or recognize because we’ve all been taught the need to do aerobic exercise. This mistake is closely related to Mistake 2. By it’s very nature anaerobic exercise is performed at high intensity.

Aerobic exercise has many benefits, but it should not be the only form of exercise you do. Aerobic exercise has little transference to our daily activities. Life is a marathon, but it’s a marathon of short bursts of activities – and that’s how we should train. Being able to run a half marathon at age 70 is not going to help you get off the toilet seat, climb a flight of stairs, or open a heavy door. In fact, in may make those activities more challenging. That’s because aerobic exercise is catabolic resulting from increase cortisol. Excess cortisol leads to muscle wasting.

Have you noticed the difference in body build and composition between endurance runners (aerobic) and their sprinter counterparts (anaerobic)? Anaerobic activity stimulates the production of growth hormone and testosterone that protects lean body mass as we age (assuming you eat enough protein). Aerobic exercise works type 1 muscle fibers and anaerobic exercise works type 2 fibers. Most of our activities of daily living involve the use of type 2 muscle fibers. And, that’s a major reason why you should exercise anaerobically.

The differences between exercising aerobically (on the left) and anaerobically (on the right) are seen here. Who looks more fit and healthier?

Anaerobic exercise can be done through strength or resistance training and/or high intensity interval training which we have discussed numerous times before.

See Exercise In Quick Spurts and Is Anaerobic Exercise Better Than Aerobic Exercise?

Avoid these three exercise mistakes and we are positive you will see greater gains from your exercise program.



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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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