Whether you’re new to exercising or have been at it for years, you may unknowingly be making some pretty serious mistakes.
We spoke to nine fitness experts to figure out which seemingly harmless exercise habits might actually be hurting you or causing injury.
From the way you’re stretching (or not stretching!) to doing the same workout every day, you might be putting your body through unnecessary stress and pain.
Whether you’re an exercise newbie or you’ve been on your fitness grind for years, there’s no doubt you enjoy the many feel-good benefits of exercise on your physical and mental health — regular exercise is great for your brain and body, and challenging your body just feels awesome.
But plenty of common workout habits are actually kind of dangerous, and you may unknowingly be hurting yourself in the process. INSIDER spoke with nine fitness experts who gave us the low-down on common habits that are not only ruining your workouts but also potentially causing you to injure yourself.
You’re working out every single day.
Although it’s true that getting regular exercise is awesome for your body, you absolutely need to give yourself adequate rest. According to Dr. Chelsea Axe, DC, CSCS and fitness expert at DrAxe.com, there are some potentially risky (and even life-threatening!) side effects of not giving your body the rest it needs.
“The side effects of overtraining are real and can range from mild to potentially life-threatening. Consistently skipping our rest days and overtraining can lead to poor performance and excess fatigue, thanks to [the] negative impacts not just on your muscles, but your metabolic, immune and hormonal systems, too,” she told INSIDER.
Another possible result? Weight gain — which is likely the opposite of what you’re looking for. “Another common consequence of too much training is actually weight gain. Failing to use your rest days, you risk chronically elevated cortisol levels, which impairs insulin sensitivity and puts your body into fat-storing mode,” Dr. Axe said.
Cortisol is a hormone your body produces when it’s under stress — too much cortisol is not good for your muscles.
There are a myriad other physical issues associated with excessive exercise, according to Dr. Axe. She notes “joint pain, signs of adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, irritability, insomnia and irregular periods for women are all other warning signs that you’re in dire need of more rest days.”
One other seriously scary side effect is a higher risk of depression. Dr. Axe notes that it’s “one of the most surprising and serious impacts of overtraining and skipping rest days over the long term,” adding, “Miami University researchers found that overtraining coincided with increased depression symptoms and suicidal behaviors related to growing pain insensitivity.”
Dr. Axe advises that you “pay attention to the other things going on in your life, too.” She notes, “If you’re experiencing a few days of extreme psychological stress, counter that with more yoga or stretching … It’s most likely just what your adrenals really need.” Even athletes are sure to take regular rest days, and it’s critical that you do, too.
You’re a “weekend warrior,” saving workouts for your days off.
As our schedules get increasingly busier, it’s easy to compensate by saving intense workouts for weekends and days off instead of trying to squeeze them in during the week. This is a bad idea, according to Dr. Axe.
“One of the most serious threats of playing the weekend warrior game is a condition called rhabdomyolysis,” she explained. Often associated with ‘crush’ injuries that happen during terrorist attacks, natural disasters, war or car accidents, it can also be triggered by a single case of overtraining.
If it sounds scary, that’s because it is.
“Rhabdomyolysis, known as rhabdo, is a complex condition that is triggered by the rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle,” Dr. Axe told INSIDER. “This breakdown leads to muscle proteins leaking out of the cells and into the bloodstream. People who de-conditioned and jump fast into training are at an elevated risk of rhabdo, a condition that can ultimately lead to everything from an electrolyte imbalance to acute renal failure.”
You’re only doing one type of workout.
Maybe you’re addicted to that spin bike or prefer to crush it in the weight room, thinking that as long as you’re not sitting on the couch all day, it’s better than nothing. And although that is true, you’ve got to switch up your workouts often, if only to prevent injury.
According to Tyler Spraul, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the head trainer at Exercise.com, there are a few issues with sticking to the same exact fitness routine.
“This can hurt you in a few ways,” he told us. “You’re only going to get better in that one area — whatever it is that you’re focusing on. If you want to be more well-rounded, you need to try different exercises and workout styles! Even professional athletes need to have strong foundations in more general parts of fitness like conditioning, mobility, moving through different planes, etc. instead of only training the specific moves they use at work.”
Plus, the effects on the muscles you’re working — and not working — are potentially detrimental.
“If you’re only doing one thing, chances are that you will build up a lot of imbalances between different muscle groups, and maybe even from one side of your body to the other. While muscle imbalances are common and not usually problematic, if you only do one thing year after year, you’re going to run into trouble,” he told us. “You also need to be on the lookout for signs of overuse. Repeating the same motions over and over can cause problems, particularly if your form isn’t spot on”
He also noted that if you’re feeling pain or soreness in your joints and ligaments instead of your muscles, that something’s not right.
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