Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health.
In fact, you’ll begin to see and feel the benefits consistent physical activity can have on your body and well-being quickly.
However, working exercise into your routine takes a lot of determination, and sticking to it in the long term requires discipline.
If you’re considering starting to exercise but don’t know where to begin, this article is for you. Here’s all you need to know about starting a routine and sticking to it.
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Regular exercise has been shown to improve your health significantly (1).
Its primary benefits include helping you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and muscle mass and reducing your risk for chronic diseases (2, 3, 4, 5).
Additionally, research has shown that exercise can lift your mood, boost your mental health, help you sleep better, and even enhance your sex life (6, 7, 8).
And that’s not all. It can also help you maintain good energy levels (9).
In short, exercise is powerful and can help improve your life.
There are various types of exercise, including:
The activities above can be done individually or combined. The important thing is to do what works best for you and to have fun with it.
It’s essential to consider a few things before starting a new workout routine.
1. Check your health
It’s important to consult your healthcare provider and get a physical medical examination before starting an exercise routine.
This is particularly important for those new to strenuous and vigorous physical activities.
An early checkup can detect any health problems or conditions that could put you at risk for an injury during exercise.
It can also help you optimize your workout, making it easier for you and your personal trainer, if you choose to work with one, to understand your limitations and create an exercise plan tailored to your particular needs.
2. Make a plan and set realistic goals
Once you decide to start exercising regularly, try to create a plan that includes attainable steps and goals.
One way to do this is to start with a plan of easy steps to follow. Then you can continue building on it as your fitness level improves.
For example, if your goal is to finish a 5-kilometer run, you can start by building a plan that includes shorter runs.
Once you can finish those short runs, increase the distance until you can run the whole 5 kilometers in one session.
Starting with small achievable goals will increase your chances of success and keep you motivated every step of the way.
3. Make it a habit
Another key component of exercise success is to stick to your routine.
It seems to be easier for people to maintain an exercise routine in the long term if they make it a habit and do it regularly (9).
A review of studies concluded that replacing an unhealthy behavior with a new healthier habit is an excellent approach to maintaining it in the long term (9).
Furthermore, making a schedule or exercising at the same time every day are good ways to sustain your routine and make it last.
For example, you can make exercise a habit by planning to work out right after work every day or first thing in the morning. It’s important to choose a time that works best for you.
Below is an easy-to-follow, 1-week exercise program that doesn’t require equipment and will only take you 30–45 minutes a day to complete.
This program can be adjusted to your fitness level and made as challenging as you want.
The 1-week program above is just a simple sample to get you started. For more workout ideas and plans, check out the following links:
Drinking fluids throughout the day is essential for maintaining healthy hydration levels.
Replenishing fluids during exercise is essential for maintaining optimal performance, especially when exercising in hot temperatures (10, 11).
Moreover, hydrating after your workout can help you recover and get you ready for your next training session (12, 13).
2. Optimize your nutrition
Be sure to consume a balanced diet to support your fitness program.
All food groups are necessary to sustain healthy energy levels and get the most out of your workout. Carbs are vital, as they can fuel your muscles before exercise (14).
Carbs are also important after exercise to replenish glycogen stores and assist with the absorption of amino acids into your muscles during recovery (15).
Additionally, protein helps improve muscle recovery after exercise, repairs tissue damage, and builds muscle mass (16).
Lastly, regularly consuming healthy fats has been shown to help burn body fat and preserve muscle fuel during workouts, making your energy last longer (14).
Click these links for more info about pre-workout and post-workout nutrition.
3. Warm up
It’s important to warm up before your workout. Doing so can help prevent injuries and improve your athletic performance (17, 18).
It can also help improve your flexibility and reduce soreness after your workout (18).
Simply start your workout with some aerobic exercises like arm swings, leg kicks, and walking lunges.
Alternatively, you can warm up by doing easy movements of the exercise you’re planning to do. For example, walk before you run.
4. Cool down
Cooling down is also important because it helps your body return to its normal state.
Taking a couple of minutes to cool down can help restore normal breathing patterns and even reduce the chance of muscle soreness (18, 19).
Some cool-down ideas include light walking after aerobic exercise or stretching after resistance training.
5. Listen to your body
If you’re not used to working out every day, be mindful of your limits.
If you feel pain or discomfort while exercising, stop and rest before continuing. Pushing through the pain is not a good idea, as it can cause injuries.
Also, remember that working out harder and faster is not necessarily better.
Taking your time to progress through your fitness program can help you maintain your routine in the long term and make the most of it.
The key to staying motivated and making exercise a habit is to have fun while doing it. This helps you to not dread exercising.
Like the sample exercise program shown above, you can mix up activities while keeping it fun for you.
If you’re able to and want to, joining a gym or taking a virtual fitness class like yoga or Pilates, hiring a personal trainer, or doing team sports are good ideas to help increase motivation and enjoyment (19).
Working out as a group or with a friend can also help maintain accountability and motivate you to keep up your exercise routine.
Furthermore, tracking your progress, such as logging your weightlifting levels or noting your running times, can help keep you motivated to improve your personal records.
Starting a new exercise routine can be challenging. However, having real objectives can help you maintain a fitness program in the long term.
There are many different types of physical activity to choose from. Find a few that work for you and be sure to vary them occasionally.
The goal is to start slowly, build up your fitness level, and let your body rest from time to time to help prevent injuries.
Keeping track of your progress or taking a virtual group class are examples of actionable steps that can help you stay motivated and achieve your goals.
It’s also important to eat a healthy diet and hydrate regularly as well as check in with your healthcare provider to monitor your health.
So what are you waiting for?
Start exercising today!
Last medically reviewed on February 8, 2021