THE GOOD NEWS is that 20 percent of Americans are achieving the CDC's minimum recommended amounts of aerobic and strength-training exercise. The bad news? Aside from the 80 percent who are doing nothing, many regular exercisers are not getting the results they want.
Frustrated by poor or unsustainable results, many exercisers surrender to fitness defeat. Here are seven of the most common fitness errors that stand in the way of your success. Do you recognize yourself here?
Spot reducer: Spot reducing is impossible! You know the drill: you do 2,000 crunches every day and still that sixpack eludes you. That's because there is no such thing as spot reduction.
Working one body part to reduce fat in that specific area does not work. To lose fat, no matter its location, you must eat less. Period. And I mean much less. A USDA study in 2000 found that Americans consumed on average 2,700 calories a day, a rise of 24.5 percent, or about 530 calories, from 1970.
Diet neglecter: Many people complain that they exercise all the time but just can't seem to shake those excess pounds. The inconvenient truth is that those extra pounds are hanging on because you are consciously or unconsciously overeating.
No amount of exercise can make up for poor nutrition or overconsumption. If your diet isn't right, you're not going to be tight. And it's not just junk food. Eating too much of anything, even the good stuff, will annihilate the best exercise efforts. If your goal is weight loss, eating healthy and appropriate portions are key.
Strength-training skipper: Women especially - but some men, too - fall into the trap of doing cardiovascular exercises only to slim down. This is a huge mistake, because strength training is essential to achieve a toned physique. There is absolutely no substitution for quality strength training. Don't neglect it!
Dumbbell swinger: You know the type. They think they're doing some serious dumbbell curls, but all they are really doing is swinging the weight around. Not only are they in danger of hurting themselves, but the momentum of swinging dumbbells does little to strengthen and tone biceps.
To correct this, you need to control the weight. Don't let the weight control you. Give yourself a two-second count when curling the weight (concentric phase) and a five-second count on the down (eccentric/stretch phase).
The big gripper: You love the elliptical trainer so much that you grip the railing for dear life or hug the console with your upper body almost draped across the top. Not only is this bad form, but it significantly reduces your cardiovascular benefits. You're burning significantly fewer calories, too.
Maintain proper posture while exercising on the elliptical. If you hold the hand rails at all, use a light touch, not a death grip.
The big show-off: Men are generally guilty of this one. They ambitiously lift too much weight, leading to injury and worse. Don't be foolish; if you're working with heavy weights, always have a spotter.
What pain, man? This is another error that men are more prone to, but women are guilty of it, too.
Muscle soreness is one thing, and to be expected. But if you have a shooting or stabbing pain, or pain in the joints themselves, stop exercising and go to the doctor. Sure, it might be nothing but why chance it?
Prompt attention and proper diagnosis may prevent a future joint replacement.
Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Her column appears on the first and third Wednesdays monthly.