5 Fitness Cheats That Keep You Fat

You exercise faithfully, putting in your time at the gym. But you’re not seeing the results you want.

It’s a common complaint, one that probably makes you want to give up.

But don’t throw in the (gym) towel just yet.

The problem may be that although you’re logging hours at the gym, you’re not necessarily making the proper effort.

You may be committing what I call some “fitness cheats.” And you don’t even realize it.

One of these cheats, I’d say, is committed by almost EVERY person I see working out at the gym. Yes, almost every person.

What is it? I’ll tell you later, but first let me share some of the other common fitness cheats that people commit at the gym.

Fitness cheat #1: You play the waiting game

Do something more productive towards fitness while you are in the gym while waiting for your turn.

You get to the gym, all set to work out. But there’s a holdup. No treadmills available. So you try to make good use of your time and catch up on emails on your smart phone.

Not a good use of your time at all, I say. You’re at the gym, not the office!

Instead of exercising your fingers on your phone, use the time to amplify your full-body workout. Do some squats, lunges, push-ups and planks.

By the time a machine frees up, you may have torched a few hundred calories. Now THAT’S good use of your time.

Fitness cheat #2: You watch television or read a book

If you can't get rid of the TV or the newspaper, at least exert extra going all out for 30 seconds every 4 minutes.

Listen, I’m a working dad of four children. I know the only time I may have to get through the morning paper is while I’m on the treadmill. But if I’m reading, or flipping through television channels, I’m likely not working hard enough.

When doing cardio, you should be working at least at a moderate pace – that means you’re slightly out of breath and couldn’t belt out “I Will Survive” without some trouble.

So put down that book and concentrate on the task at hand.

If you really can’t get through a workout without reading or watching television, put the book aside every three to four minutes and do a high-intensity interval. That means going all out as hard as you can for 20 to 30 seconds (or up to a minute, if you can). Then you can finish your paper while you’re doing an easy interval.

Fitness cheat #3: You spend all your time on cardio machines

A lot of people, particularly women, tend to get cardio happy, spending hours walking on the treadmill or climbing the stair stepper at a moderate pace.

You should absolutely do your cardio. But not at the expense of weight training.

Why is weight training so important? Muscle uses more calories to maintain itself than fat – about three times more. In other words, for every pound of muscle you pack on, you automatically burn more calories. And that’s when you’re not exercising.

Plus muscle takes up less room on your body than fat does, so you’ll look leaner with more muscle.

So do your cardio, but after 30 minutes, hop off the treadmill and do some weight training.

Fitness cheat #4: You get (too!) expert in what you’re doing

Sure, it’s great to be good at what you’re doing. But the body is highly adaptive. What works only works for a short period of time.

So if you’re walking on the treadmill day after day at the same pace, your muscles will soon learn the most efficient way to walk and basically operate on autopilot.

When the body no longer has to work as hard, you’ll expend less energy and burn fewer calories.

The key to seeing results? Give your body new and different challenges all the time. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic. Just spend 30 minutes on the elliptical on a particular day instead of the treadmill. Try the rowing machine another day. Switch up free weights for weight machines. Or try kettle balls for a change.

Anything to shake things up so your body has to “think” and use different muscles.

Switching it up has another benefit too – it keeps you from getting bored.

Fitness cheat #5: You’re holding the handrails

This is the cheat I see most often. People gripping the handrails of the treadmill, the elliptical or the stair stepper within an inch of their lives.

But hanging on so tightly robs you of the biggest calorie burn. Because your arms are stuck to the handrail, you’re not swinging them properly. Plus you’re slouching, so your spine isn’t getting the right support.

Instead of using the handrails, try lowering the incline or slowing your pace so you can keep yourself steady without the sidebars. If you must use the handrails, just place your fingertips on them ever so slightly.

So, are you committing any of these fitness cheats? Or do you know of any other cheats that I haven’t covered? I’d love to hear them.

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

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  1. maureen shankland


    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Maureen,

      Thank you for posting your concern! I can see that you are doing the right things but clearly frustrated with your efforts. All is not lost and you may just need to change things up a bit. Try getting a lot more fiber from green leafy vegetables into your diet. They can be as a salad, grilled, steamed or even a smoothie. Fiber from vegetables helps keep you full and also helps with digestion. Try walking a little bit faster for a minute or two and then slow down for 30 seconds to a minute during your walks. Repeat this cycle for 3 or 4 more times to get your metabolic rate going. It does not have to be super fast, just a little bit faster than your usual pace. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  2. How do I increase overall body strength, or just “tighten up” muscles everywhere, without doing anything too cardio? I have high blood pressure due to Dysautonomia & I’m not supposed to raise my heart rate over 115-120. I need strengthening, lengthening, tightening exercises that don’t tax my heart. Besides shaping up this 58 year old body, I need to make my muscles stronger to support my veins, so blood is easily pumped back up to my heart! Any suggestions?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Terri,

      Thank you for posting your concerns! Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and the similar exercises are effective in toning your body but are low impact. I suggest that you check out local gyms in your area to learn of classes. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  3. Hi I’ve been doing a low carb diet for a year and a half noo
    The first year I lost 33 pounds then all of a sudden it stopped and I plateaud out for 6 months then started gaining again
    I do my work out changing routine everyday. I’ve gained 10 of the 33 pounds I had lost what do I do to start losing weight again? I’m afraid I’ll be back in the prediabedict state that I was in before losing weight!!! Please help

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Sharon,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I completely understand your frustration and based on what you wrote, can see the problem as well. A plateau is to be expected when you have steadily lost weight over a period of time. Some get plateau after 3 months while other take a while longer. In your case, changing your routines daily may have made your body a lot harder to challenge. To counteract this, try sticking to a plan for while. i know this sounds counter intuitive but our goal here is to make your body lazy and then challenge it with a new routine after 2 or 3 months. This sudden shock to the system will make you burn extra hard and raise your metabolic levels again. To ensure that your routine will be effective, try working with a trainer to monitor your progress. Sometime, we may need a different perspective to help us progress in our journey to better health. Make it a healthy day!

  4. Monika Jones-Lyons

    I have been doing “everything right” – 1) work out with a trainer three times a week 2) log my food in MyFitnessPal 3) try to stick to 1200 calories per my doctor 4) Fairly active and I still cannot lose weight.
    I don’t have a gall bladder – could this be a factor? I am pre-diabetic due to my weight. I am 5ft2 at 117 lbs.
    Also had my thryoid checked – no issues there. HELP – I am out of ideas and so is my doctor

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Monika,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! You seem to be doing everything right and I can clearly understand your frustration. Other factors you may need to consider are sleep, hydration and your hormones. Are you getting enough sleep? Our body needs 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep for repair and to lower our cortisol levels. Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone and when unbalanced, can cause us to gain weight. Hydration, our body needs at least 64 ounces or 2L of water everyday. If you workout, live in a hot area or sweat profusely, you may need to adjust your intake. Lastly are your hormones, your hormones ( reproductive or digestive hormones) can all affect your weight loss progress. I suggest that you speak with your personal doctor about this as he is able to request for necessary tests to help with diagnosis. From there, you are able to control your hormone levels and proceed with weight loss. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

    • 5’2” and 117 pounds sounds pretty ideal to me. Could be your not losing because you don’t need to.

  5. Is it possible to lose weight when hypothyroid?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Irene,

      Thank you for writing in and posting your concerns! Yes, it is quite possible to lose weight, even with a sick thyroid. The road may be long and challenging so you need to stick to your healthy diet and the changes you are making. Give your body time to adjust and react accordingly. It is also important that you work closely with your personal doctor in treating your sick thyroid. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  6. Thank you for all tbis information! I’d forgottenmost and learned some! 😉

  7. Hypothyroidism since high school, 58 year old female. 306lbs 5’7″
    I went to an Integrated MD in Lubbock Tx that weened me off of my Synthroid and on to a T3 I initially lost 30 lbs but then weight loss halted. At my checkup with my regular GYN my T4 was non existent so the put me back on lower amount of Synthroid along with the T3. Starting having Heart palpitations, skipping beats, racing and even thought I had a heart Murmur. So they took me off T3 put me back at my normal 100mcg Synthroid and all was back to normal after awhile. I have cut out 95% sugars, all grain, legumes and roots. Eating all meat groups, vegetables, berries and we occasionally have Paleo pizza crust or Keto Muffins. My weight has bearly budged. Back story unexplained stroke at 42 in the pons of my brain stem, but was mistreated for MS. MS specialist said No MS but that he had found the stroke. Not heavy at time of stroke. It seems Steroid treatments kicked in weight gain that I can’t seem to reverse. I also have lower extremities Lymphadema that started a yr after my hysterectomy it is very well controlled Ideas suggestions. Thank you

  8. Leigh Ann Adams

    Diagnosed with hypothyroidism five years ago when taking compound thyroid meds estrogen etc. gaining weight not losing weight need to figure out what I can do. I exercise 5-6 times a week 30 to 60 minutes t
    Daily. I don’t know how to adjust my appetite I find I ear need more and more just because I want something in my mouth.
    Also I have quit smoking as of August 2014 but I have been smoking one or two a day lately because of an Anxiety issues / Depression and recently loss job and unhappiness with the body figure

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Leigh Ann,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your experience! It seems that your tendency to snack or munch in place of your other habit is causing you to gain some weight. Coupled with your sick thyroid, it is understandable that a losing weight may pose to be a challenge. That said, I suggest that you get your hands on healthy snacks such as a piece of fruit, nuts and maybe a handful of berries too. And lastly, distract and redirect. I do this with my kids all the time. When they want to do something that I don’t want them to, I try to divert their attention. See if you can do that with your cravings. Hope this gets you to a good start Leigh Ann! Make it a healthy day!

  9. My Weight loss formula 1 comes tomorrow. I am really praying this supplement does everything it promises. I am so tired of all the empty promise’s and wasted money I have spent over the years on products that have just let me down.
    I did a lot of research on your product prior to purchasingredients it so I’may really hoping it’s THE ONE!
    I will keep you posted once I start taking it. Fingers crossed, spirits high.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Tama,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! I cannot wait to learn of your results and do wish you great success in this journey to better health! Have a healthy day!

  10. I think I am out of topic here. I just want to know, if there is a ringing sound in the ear, what does it indicate. I am an asmatic.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Maliga,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Sometimes, constant sneezing or coughing can bring about ringing of the ears but should return to normal after a few minutes. You may want to talk to your personal doctor about this and get his thoughts. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  11. I’m diabetic it’s harder what can I eat to help me out?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Kristy,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Living with and managing diabetes may seem difficult at first, especially if you are looking to lose weight in a healthy way. My first suggestion would be to work with your doctor to ensure you are not only able to start losing weight but be up to date with your health condition. Second, would be to adapt a wholesome, healthy eating plan which is focused on plenty of fresh vegetables, the right amount of protein and unsaturated fats. Start with small healthy changes as it will make you stick to the plan easier. A sudden change in diet and lifestyle will cause you to feel deprived and soon you will feel the hunger cravings. Lastly, find an exercise you enjoy doing and stick with that for a month or two. You can change the intensity of your exercises as you get stronger and do be afraid to try several kinds. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  12. If I’m doing 30 minutes on the treadmill but changing the incline and speed randomly, (not holding the handles) then doing about an hour of weightlifting, am I doing this right ?.. cant afford going to the gym and having a personal trainer, but trying to educate myself into better physical condition. I have shed 274 pounds, now trying to get rid of those nasty last 50 and I’ve plateaud… I don’t know what else to do to get my body back into fat burning mode !… any advice ?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Suzzane,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Amazing weight loss! Dropping 274 pounds is not easy and I admire your strength and determination. You are doing everything right and changing your routine frequently will challenge your body, making it burn more calories. As you lose weight, your metabolism can drop because your body requires less calories or “energy”. The calorie intake that you initially had when you began will need to be adjusted to match your body’s current needs . We recommend adjusting your calories for every 10 lbs you lose. Get a good amount of protein in your meals and pair that with plenty of water. Keep your hydration in check since the body will often crave food when you are even mildly dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are similar to symptoms of hunger, so it’s easy to confuse the two. Aim to drink 80-100 fluid ounces (2.35 liters) of water per day plus additional fluids lost during activity.

      I hope the tips above help get you back on track, Suzanne and looking forward to hearing of your progress! Make it a healthy day!

    • We tend to focus too much on the scale. At about every 20-25 lbs of weight loss, your body has to flush unneeded capillaries (they used to feed those 25 pounds, but are no longer needed). During this time, you will lose inches, not pounds. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and when your body gets done flushing, you will go back to weight lose.

  13. You move your arms back and forth on elliptical. Is that an acceptable cardio workout? Thank you

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Sandra,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Yes, absolutely! Moving your hands back and forth at any pace not only increases your calorie burning capacity but also maintains your range of motions. Just be sure to keep your balance! Make it a healthy day!

  14. Thank you .this really helped

  15. This is without a doubt the best email advice you have ever sent…… To me!! Yep! I’m a fitness cheat!!! And I wasn’t even aware!!!

  16. Thank you it was very helpfull!

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