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You may think extreme exercise will help you look like a skinny model. That, and several other fitness traps, almost always ends in disappointment. Check out these popular fitness traps, and get the lowdown on healthy exercise.

Fitness Trap #1: Exercise to Lose Weight

You may see a bunch of twigs walking down the runway, but in real life, girls gain weight in their teens. This is normal. Putting on 40 pounds between age 10 and 14 is not unusual or unhealthy.

Does this mean you should just sit around get fat? No! Regular exercise can help you stay healthy as you develop. One study found that girls who don’t exercise gain an average of 10 to 15 pounds more than active girls. Something as simple as five 30-minute walks a week is all it takes.

Fitness Trap #2: Talk Yourself Out of Exercise

Maybe you think you look stupid or fat when you exercise. This keeps a lot of girls on the sidelines. Ironically, active girls say they feel better about themselves and their bodies, no matter how much they weigh.

Fitness Trap #3: Plan for Pain, Embarrassment, Boredom

OK, you hate the treadmill and loathe team sports. Then stay away from things that make you feel like a hamster or require hand-eye coordination. You still have options. Some girls stay away from ball fields, only to fall in love with dancing, yoga, and martial arts. Others find their bliss through biking, jogging, swimming, or taking long walks.

Fitness Trap #4: Do Only One Thing

Cross training helps build your overall fitness and helps you to not get injured. It also keeps things interesting. Here are the different kinds of exercise to work into your routine.

  • Aerobic exercise

Good for: stronger heart and lungs

Examples: inline skating, dancing, walking briskly, jogging, biking, swimming

  • Strength training
  • Good for: stronger muscles and bones

Examples: lifting weights, working with resistance bands, many kinds of yoga, rock climbing

  • Core body exercise

    Good for: stronger trunk, pelvis, and lower back, better balance

Examples: sit-ups, leg lifts, yoga, Pilates

Fitness Trap #5: Don’t Exercise Enough

Remember the study comparing weight gain in active girls to inactive girls? It only takes 30 minutes of activity, five times a week to make a difference. The key is finding things you enjoy and making them part of your life, like brushing your teeth.

Fitness Trap #6: Exercise Too Much

Some girls get obsessed and take exercise too far. Here are some signs of overdoing it:

  • You don’t take at least one day of rest every week
  • You feel exhausted all the time
  • Your periods stop -- if this happens or don’t get your first period by the time you turn 16, talk to your doctor about it.

Exercise is not just for boys and doesn’t have to be humiliating. Done right, it’s a great way to get strong and healthy.

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