Actually to say that it is your body's goal is a bit of an understatement. Your body is designed specifically to find ways to lower Caloric expenditure. It will continue to adapt to activity by using muscle it already has, resting on bones and leveraging on connective tissue - and all of this is during exercise! We all know how hard it works to prevent us from exercise in the first place, to think that those efforts might not be yielding the most benefit or, worse, causing damage is enough to just give up.
So to all of those people who were exercising in the gym while I was there on vacation, I commend your efforts and did not want to squelch your motivation by pointing out the harm that you may be doing your body... I hope you read this and find it helpful.
1. Stop hanging on to the treadmill. Fingertip touch for balance is fine. Gripping is an indicator that you have the belt going too fast for you.
2. Stop laying on the machine. The console and handles are not there to support your body weight; your muscles should be doing that. 3. Don't let gravity do the work. On machines like an elliptical trainer it is very easy to simply shift your body weight from side-to-side and make it seem like you are doing more than you are; gravity and momentum are not your friends.
4. Don't slam weights. As a general rule, weights on a selectorized machine (the kind with a stack of weights and a pin) should not touch down during the set. Hitting them together is simply a sign that you are not using the muscles to control the movement.
5. Stop jerking your whole body. Swinging to generate the momentum to move the weight is not using the muscle to move the weight.
As you can see from these 5 tips, the common theme is efficiency. Each of these examples is one way that your body can lessen the amount of work that it is actually doing while making you believe ("...'cause the machine says") that you are being effective. For decreasing body fat, increasing muscle and improving health, effective exercise is the least energy efficient.
There are other things to consider, like doing the exercises in proper alignment and ensuring that you are doing the right exercises for your body, but I hope that these 5 tips will help you get started thinking about how you can make your exercise more effective. Because if you are going to devote the time and effort, I believe that you should get the most out of it.
As always, let me know how I can help.