If you haven’t been exercising or have no habit of exercise, but you’re reading this, please stop right now and pat yourself on the back. In this article I'm going to suggest some tips to start exercising that really work.
The first step to exercising is simply to start. Don’t make it complex: any exercise is good exercise. Going for a walk around your neighborhood, a hike in the hills, or a walk at the beach, just getting outside and doing something, it’s all good.
The most important thing is to get started, to make a commitment, do what you enjoy, and make it a habit. In my experience, success is contagious. Once you feel successful for going out and getting some exercise, you’ll want to exercise more. If you enjoy exercising, you will do more exercise.
How much exercise should you do?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, on most days of the week. There are hundreds of articles published daily that point to all kinds of different numbers, from even 1 minute of exercise (see this from NY Times, or this from TIME), to an hour per day (The Telegraph).
What’s the point? If you’re not exercising now, and you begin to exercise, any amount of exercise is going to produce a positive benefit. The point is to avoid the trap of thinking that if you can’t exercise for some minimum number of minutes per day, that you shouldn’t exercise at all. You will see benefits even five or 10 minutes of moving around.
So just do it.
It’s important to realize that while you will see benefits, it does take time. You’ll find that you get fitter and healthier with any exercise you do. Any exercise program that promises results in a short period of time such as “the six week weight loss miracle” is either lying or not worth it.
The fact is, exercising is a lifestyle decision. Make the decision to make exercise a part of your daily lifestyle, and you will see benefits in time.
So again, it’s important to do what you enjoy. That could be walking, bicycling, hiking, surfing, kayaking, swimming, getting involved in the regular sport like playing basketball at the gym with some friends, whatever works for you.
This is a general recommendation (supported by a huge amount of data), but in talking to people, I find this never seems to be quite enough. While I’m not a certified trainer, I do taking a lot of information, and have found some general recommendations for exercise programs that work for me, and for other people that I’ve known. Also, if you have health problems, do the right thing and check with your doctor before getting in any kind of an exercise program.
And one other thing. The audience I’m talking to is getting older. It’s important to allow your body to adapt to anything new slowly. Your body needs to adapt to exercising, and if you overdo it you can injure yourself, or worse yet, lose interest. In either case, that works against your best interest. So take it slowly, progress gradually, take small steps, allow your body to adapt to it, and you’ll stay injury free and see great long-term results. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get instant results!
Common Beginner Questions About Exercise
- What Does this mean: Fitness Definitions
- What exercises should I do?
- What kind of cardio should I do?
- How often should I exercise?
- How long should I exercise?
- How hard should I exercise?
We’ll address each of these questions so you can set up an exercise program that fits you, based on your fitness level, your goals, and your lifestyle.
Here’s Where to Start
Below are the basic steps you need to set up a workout routine you can actually stick with.
Set your goals – I know, most of us think we should have a weight loss goal and, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, weight loss goals don’t always have much staying power, since weight loss can be very slow. Think of other goals like completing a certain number of workouts or getting in some kind of activity each day – active goals you can actually measure.
Whatever your goal is – get healthy, lose fat, gain muscle, etc. – you’re going to need at least two things: Cardio exercise and strength training. The difference is how much you do of each. Here are some basic guidelines for each of those goals:
Start with a Basic Program – No matter what your goal is, you have to start where you are, which is at the beginning. If not doing anything currently, start by walking about 3-5 days a week, working up to 30 minutes per day, and include a simple strength routine a couple of times a week.
Stay Motivated – Adopting exercise as part of your lifestyle can be challenging. Most people are creatures of habit, and beginning an exercise routine is establishing a new habit. Most people are as slow to establish a new habit as an aircraft carrier is to make a U-turn.
Great Beginner Resources
I’ve given you a basic framework to go by, but maybe you want a little more – Something more structured that you can follow, someone who will tell you exactly what to do. You'll find a variety of resources on this website that will point you in the right direction. Just pick what works for you and let’s get started!