Getting Started With Exercise
Every journey begins with a single step, and that’s especially true of a fitness program.
Experts recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week — activity that is strenuous enough to bring your heart rate up and cause you to break a sweat. You also should perform strength-training exercises at least two days a week.
That sounds like a lot, but you don’t have to do that exercise all at once or even in two or three or four workout sessions. Fitness experts say it’s perfectly fine to break up your exercise program into sessions as short as 10 minutes each, as long as they add up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity by the end of the week. In fact, some research has found that it’s better to spread out exercise throughout your week and even throughout each day.
Also keep in mind aerobic activity doesn’t have to high-velocity running; there are many low-impact exercise choices and some even no-impact exercises that can help you get fit without taxing your system.
Taking Your First Fitness Steps
Here are guidelines for getting started:
- Ease into exercise to get your body used to your new level of activity.
- Set an achievable short-term goal, like walking 10 minutes a day on three days a week, and build up from there until you are getting the recommended amount of exercise.
- Consult with your doctor or a personal trainer if you have specific health concerns. Get advice on what exercise programs would best fit your lifestyle and level of fitness. A personal trainer can work directly with you to craft a fitness plan that will start out slowly and build as you become more physically active.
- Remember to warm up before exercise and cool down afterward.
- Don’t overexert yourself, even after you’ve been on an exercise program for a while. Pay attention to your body for signs of injury or fatigue.
- Make sure that the exercises you choose are appropriate to your age and fitness level.
- Know the right way to exercise — ask a fitness instructor or personal trainer to teach you the correct form for every aerobic exercise and strength training movement you do.
Overcoming Obstacles to Fitness
Everyone has reasons why they can’t exercise. Find solutions to keep them from becoming permanent excuses:
“I’m worried about hurting myself.” People who are overweight or older may find that some forms of exercise place too much strain on their joints. The answer is to avoid or limit weight-bearing exercises like running, jogging, or step aerobics classes. Instead, start out by participating in no-impact exercises or low-impact exercises.
No-impact exercise places no weight on your joints. It will work the muscles of your cardiovascular system, but will not create stress in bones or joints. Examples include:
- Water aerobics
Low-impact exercise places some weight on your joints, but does not create the sort of impact stress caused by more high-energy workouts. Examples include:
- Yoga or tai chi
- Pushing a lawn mower
- Ballroom or line dancing
A physical therapist will help you find activities that overcome your limitations.
“I can’t get motivated.” It’s hard to stick with a fitness plan if you don’t stay interested in it. Ways to motivate yourself include:
- Getting a workout buddy to exercise with you
- Pursuing exercise activities that you find fun and enjoyable and will look forward to doing
- Joining an exercise class or group of people who work out together
- Asking friends and family members to support your efforts
- Setting an achievable short-term fitness goal with the emphasis on achievable — if you set the bar too high, you could end up discouraged
“I can’t fit a workout into my day.” Everyone is time-crunched, but you should be able to work physical fitness into your busy schedule:
- Keep a diary of your daily activities for one or two weeks, then go over it. Pinpoint at least three 30-minute time slots into which you could squeeze a workout. Not possible? Look for nine 10-minute slots over the course of each week and build up to 15 sessions from there.
- Make physical activity a part of everyday life. Walk or ride your bike to work. Park farther away from your destination. Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
- Pick exercises that require less preparation and equipment, like walking or stair climbing.
It’s easy to get out of shape when you have trouble just getting around, but you can become more physically active. Create an exercise plan around an activity you like, ease into the exercise, and congratulate yourself as you’re able to meet your fitness goals.