Tripping over your own feet in aerobics class may be embarrassing, but it’s not likely to result in serious injury to anything aside from your pride. However, some gym accidents can result in a speedy trip to the ER. The good news: You can prevent most of them. Check out these most common fitness mistakes and what you can do to stay safe while exercising at the gym.
Dangerous fitness mistake #1
Too much exercise too soon
Many people push their exercise limits too hard, especially when first starting out. If you have a pencil-pushing job, don’t expect to hit the gym and dive immediately into a no-holds-barred exercise routine. You risk injury, passing out from too much exertion and even cardiac problems.
Solution: Allow yourself a few weeks to establish a fitness base before pushing hard. Hire a certified personal trainer to learn proper form and progression or take a weight-training group class.
Dangerous fitness mistake #2
Ignoring a weak or injured area
The adage “No pain, no gain” does not refer to actual injuries. If you experience sharp or unusual pain anywhere on your body, stop the exercise you’re doing and seek help if it continues. If you ignore pain signals, you may end up worsening an injury that needs weeks to heal or needs surgery to properly repair.
Solution: Modify exercises or go slowly if you’re recovering from an injury or you start to experience discomfort. Seek the help of a physical therapist or experienced trainer for ways to modify your routine.
Dangerous fitness mistake #3
Not paying attention to what you’re doing
Talking on your cell phone or texting while walking (or running) on a treadmill, turning your head to speak with a friend — all these can send you flying off the machine. If you’re distracted while lifting weights, you could drop a weight on your head or other body part.
Solution: Focus on the task at hand. Before getting on a treadmill, check to be sure the last person didn’t leave it running, for example. If someone starts a conversation with you while you’re lifting weights, politely ignore them until you finish.
Dangerous fitness mistake #4
No medical check-up before starting a new exercise program
If you’re young and active, you may feel this advice pertains to only the over-50 crowd. You could be mistaken if you have a family history of heart disease or other conditions that need a doctor’s OK before you exercise. Check with a doctor before starting a cardio program to rule out potential problems.
Solution: Know your family history. If someone in your family has had heart disease at young age (less than 60 for women), especially a parent or sibling, you are at increased risk no matter what your weight and blood pressure is. Early testing for at-risk individuals should start at age 18.
Dangerous fitness mistake #5
Copying another exerciser’s form
Exercise variety is key if you want to continue to see progress. Don’t watch other people at the gym and use what they’re doing for new ideas for your own routine — they may not know what they’re doing.
Solution: Do your research: Check out websites from reputable organizations like the American Council on Exercise, or the American College of Sports Medicine for proper exercise form. If someone offers you advice, make sure they know what they’re talking about: Are they credentialed? What’s their experience? Better to be safe than sorry.