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The 6 Most Common Exercise Pitfalls

By Tony Wolff, PT

For many people, a lack of discipline is the reason they don’t exercise. But even if you are motivated and disciplined, it’s important that you avoid making the most common errors that can sidetrack your progress.


We have all know that physical activity is needed for weight management and health maintenance. It is best to check with your healthcare provider, but generally we can say a good goal to work towards is 30 plus minutes of moderate activity every day. Any increase in activity is beneficial. Starting and maintaining an exercise plan can be difficult for various reasons. Here are ways to help avoid the 6 most common problems:


1. Don’t Do Too Much, Too Soon:  A gradual progression of exercise is ideal, especially if you are currently sedentary. This includes overall management of time, frequency, and intensity. While acknowledging that we all have different starting points, the American College of Sports Medicine recommendation of a ‘slow and steady’ progression of new activity is perfect. In the end, it is important that you listen to your body.


2. You May Need to Warm Up:  With more strenuous or prolonged activity, some sort of warming up is appropriate. This could be a stretching routine targeting all major muscle groups. Additionally, 5 minutes of dynamic ‘light and easy’ range of motion (arm circles, leg swings, trunk twists, etc.) works well.


3. Pain Can Limit Activity:  Sometimes pain decreases your tolerance to exercise. Established recommendations for exercise focus on accumulation of moderate activity. This means that you don’t have to be active for long sessions, and not at vigorous levels. Three 10 minute walks works as well as one 30 minute session in terms of calories burned. Plus, painful joints will always tolerate smaller sessions better. The Arthritis Foundation ‘Two Hour Rule’ is a good rule of thumb to apply, meaning you should not have joint pain for more than 2 hours upon completing an activity.


4. Use Time Management:  It can be tough to find the time to be active due to our busy lives--with work, family, and other commitments. Given that exercise does not need to be done all at once, you can try to fit in small sessions of activity throughout the day. For instance, this could be taking a brief walk over a lunch break. Just look for small windows of time.


5. There is No Best Exercise:  People often ask what the best exercise is. I’d say that whatever activities you enjoy and that are accessible are best. What works well for many is walking, given its easy availability. In the end, the key is finding things you can maintain over time.


6. You’ve Got to Plan It:  Like any behavior, if we don’t plan your exercise, it won’t happen. This means asking yourself what can you do, when can you possibly do it, how often can you do it, and then taking the steps to make this happen.