Whether you prefer a jog at your local park or lifting weights in a stylish fitness center, there’s no question that challenging your body with a regular exercise routine can offer a broad range of benefits.
These perks include sustained cardiovascular health, weight loss, and a mood boost. However, it’s important to know that not all exercise may necessarily be good—or at least, not good for you.
Depending on your body’s unique needs, limitations, and conditions—as well as your personal fitness goals—a high-intensity workout such as barbell squats may not be ideal. Worse, the wrong exercise may actually cause you harm. To stay active and protect your well-being, find the right types of exercises for you, then craft a balanced fitness routine around them. If you identify with any of the following challenges, consider avoiding certain workouts or swapping them out for alternatives instead.
According to the CDC, a whopping 24 percent of American adults experience arthritis, just one of the many conditions that can affect joint health, cause pain and stiffness, and possibly even reduce your body’s mobility.
However, this doesn’t mean that one in four Americans should avoid exercise altogether. In fact, studies have shown that moderate exercise can actually help fight symptoms of joint issues. Just avoid high-impact exercises that would require your joints to absorb large amounts of weight or pressure. These may include running, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and powerlifting.
Try instead: Low-impact exercises like walking and yoga, which are heart healthy yet simple enough for many people with mobility issues. If you are going to perform resistance exercises like squats and bicep curls, use a medicine ball or small kettlebell in lighter weights to manage your joint impact.
Also, be sure to listen to your body. As the Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan recommends, “If you experience average to intense pain during your workout, stop . . . This might be a sign that you are experiencing joint inflammation or maybe even joint damage.” Continually check how your joints feel throughout each session, even when engaging in light exercise.
Neck or back pain
Your neck and back are two of the most excruciating and potentially debilitating places you can experience pain. If you struggle with conditions such as fibromyalgia or spinal stenosis, have chronic or occasional back soreness, or are recovering from a neck injury, you may feel as if even slight movements pose a huge risk. Reach for something across your desk: pain. Bend over to tie your shoe too quickly: pain. Naturally, this can make you nervous about engaging in a challenging exercise routine.
Unfortunately, as the Spine Institute of North America (SINA) confirms, many common workouts can potentially worsen back or neck pain. For instance, offenders like sit-ups, squats, and burpees may apply additional stress to your backbone. Taking time to warm up and ensure you practice proper form can reduce your risk of experiencing any side effects. However, depending on your level of back or neck pain, it may be advisable to avoid these risky routines altogether.
Try instead: These gentle, guided exercises courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic. Its recommendations include calisthenics like side bends and stretches like child’s pose. When performed properly and paired with guided breathing, such exercises can help release tension along your spine while also keeping you active.
SINA further suggests that “you should perform gentle exercises that stretch the muscles around your back but don’t put excess pressure on them.” If you experience only occasional pain or discomfort, assess how your neck and back feel before your workout, and reserve more grueling workouts for days when you feel strong and pain-free.
Lack of motivation
Success in fitness depends on the amount of effort you exert, which means that if you’re unmotivated to exercise, you’re unlikely to reap much from your trip to the fitness center. Many people relish exercising for the endorphins it releases; these happy chemicals can provide a strange feeling of satisfaction even after going through a strenuous workout. But for others, this mood boost isn’t enough to make maintaining a high-stress exercise program worth it.
Workouts like running and weightlifting require major exertion, are repetitive, and tend to be solitary—all of which can lead to boredom. Without the proper motivation, you may end up cutting your sessions short or skipping them altogether, especially if you have a busy lifestyle that juggles many work and family responsibilities.
Try instead: A routine with built-in variety and a splash of recreation, such as swimming, dancing, or long walks in enjoyable scenery. Making your exercises entertaining can sustain your motivation, which will help you achieve both your short- and long-term fitness goals. For even more inspiration to get active, invite a friend to exercise with you. If you fold a social occasion into your exercise session, you may be more likely to show up at the gym. You could also enroll in a high-energy, guided fitness class like Zumba or spinning for built-in accountability and hype.
*Always consult your doctor for questions about your health or before beginning a new exercise routine.