Regular exercise offers a host of health benefits from preventing heart disease and diabetes to promoting a longer life. But exercising the wrong way can undermine both your fitness goals and your wellness. To prevent injuries and setbacks, the American Council on Exercise and Bill Sonnemaker, 2007 IDEA International Personal Trainer of the Year, recommend that you watch out for the following common pitfalls.

1. Not Stretching. Flexibility training before and after helps you throughout your entire workout. Stretching, as opposed to most weightlifting exercises, can elongate your muscles, making them appear leaner.

2. Focusing On Only One Aspect of Fitness. For all-around physical fitness, workouts should include all of the following training components: flexibility, core, balance, agility, quickness, resistance, and cardiovascular.

3. Not Warming Up. Muscles need time to adjust to the demands of aerobic activity. Start slowly, and gradually increase your intensity.

4. Forgetting the Cool Down. Cooling down gives the body a smooth transition from exercise to a state of rest. It also helps lower blood pressure and minimizes muscle soreness. Cool downs should include five to 10 minutes each of cardiovascular training and stretching.

5. Lifting Too Much Weight. Don't lift more than you can handle, which can result in injury. Instead add weights in increments as your strength increases.

6. Jerking or Bouncing While Lifting Weights. When you jerk or bounce weights, you are putting unnecessary stress on your joints and other muscles. This can lead to injury or sprain, and it leaves the back vulnerable. Control the weight to get the most from the particular muscle you're working at a gradual and progressive rate, which is safer and more effective.

6. Exercising Too Intensely. This is actually less effective than sustaining a moderate workout for a longer period of time. The proper level of exercise should produce a light sweat and get your heart beating in your training zone.

7. Not Drinking Enough Water. Don't think you're thirsty? Well, don't wait until you are because, at that point, you're already approaching dehydration. Drink water throughout your workout to stay hydrated.

8. Misunderstanding Soreness. Beware of fitness gurus and coaches that claim lactic acid is the reason you're sore after a workout. Pain and soreness are actually caused by microscopic tears in the muscle and connective tissue called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).