Taking the first steps in a new exercise regime can be really challenging. There always seems to be barriers to fitting physical activity into our lives, whether these are real or imagined. So we are giving you 9 tips on how to start exercising.
We all know the benefits of exercise, but that is rarely enough to get us moving. On occasion, it can be the detection of a health issue that prompts us to start exercising. Other times it can be weight gain or a lack of self esteem.
Whatever the reason, starting an exercise program is a great idea regardless of your age or fitness level.
Overcoming Obstacles & Excuses
While we may have good intentions about starting to exercise often there are obstacles that get in the way.
More often than not it is ourselves that is the obstacle, and we come up with all sorts of excuses for not exercising. Some may be genuine, but many are imagined.
We know the benefits of exercise for our health, mood, and sleep and there are countless ways to exercise for free, so what is stopping us?
Unfortunately knowing why exercise is a good thing and how to go about it is not going to get you in shape. Only starting to do physical exercise will accomplish that. So we need to overcome the obstacles and excuses and get going.
A busy schedule or minor health condition can make starting to exercise a challenge but not impossible. Most of the obstacles are mental. Once you acknowledge that there are ways around most barriers to exercise you will be on your way.
Assess Your Fitness Level
You probably know how fit or unfit you are but taking some time to record some baseline scores will allow you to track your progress.
These should include your pulse rate before and after walking a set distance for example 1 mile. Time how long it takes you to walk or run the same distance. If you are going to include push ups in your exercise regime then record how many you can do in one go.
You should also record your body mass index and not just your weight if you are exercising for weight loss and health. Body mass index is a measure of body fat taking into account someone’s height and weight.
Measure your waist circumference which should be done just above your hips. If you want you can take other measurements, but your waistline is probably the easiest to monitor.
Once you have your baseline scores you can design a fitness program around your needs.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
So how much exercise do you actually need? That depends on a number of factors but if you have not been exercising up to this point, something is better than nothing.
Even going for a walk around the block after dinner is better than sitting on the couch watching TV.
It is recommended that adults spend at least 30 minutes exercising at least five times a week. These 150 minutes can be broken down into manageable sessions depending on your fitness level and how you want to manage your exercise time.
You can either do a full half hour per day or break it down into two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute sessions.
The amount of exercise you need will also depend on your fitness level. If you have never exercised before or not for many years you’re probably not very fit. Tailor the amount and intensity of the exercise to suit your fitness needs.
It is important to start slowly and build up the amount of exercise you take. You should start at a low intensity. To measure what is low intensity you should be able to talk in full sentences without gasping for breath or singing.
A moderate intensity activity should still allow you to talk in full sentences, but you won’t be able to sing. Finally, vigorous exercises won’t allow you to speak in full sentences as you will be too breathless.
Starting off small doesn’t mean you have to do anything exceptional. Fit some exercise into your daily routine. Get off the subway or bus a few blocks away from work and walk the rest of the way. Or go for a walk in the park during your lunch break.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator or offer to walk a neighbor’s dog if you don’t have one of your own.
Choose Activities You Enjoy
To make sure you stick to your exercise plan, choose activities that you really enjoy doing. If you hate cycling you’re not going to enjoy a spin class and if jogging is not your thing then you won’t want to do that either.
If you love swimming or dancing then that’s the way to go.
If exercise feels like a chore you are much more likely to give up quickly. Choosing fun activities means you’re increasing your fitness while enjoying yourself.
Doing activities that make you feel self conscious or inept won’t instill confidence or happiness, and you’ll probably give up before you have made any impact on your fitness.
For those who are very sociable, exercising in a class is a great idea. It also means you are more motivated to attend the class on a regular basis as you are socializing and exercising.
Getting In The Habit
It takes at least six to eight weeks to form a habit according to psychologists. This means you do something automatically without having to plan ahead or make a conscious decision. Employing triggers will help you to maintain your exercise habit.
Triggers are cues that remind you to do something but in a subconscious way. They create an automatic reaction. Examples are leaving your sneakers by the bed as a reminder to go for a run in the morning or putting your gym bag by the front door.
In time these triggers will become habits themselves, and you will automatically leave your gym bag by the front door or your sneakers by the bed. Once exercise becomes an automatic part of your routine you will know it has become a habit.
The rewards of exercising are well known, better health, energy boost and improved sleep. But most of these benefits are usually long term.
When you first start exercising it is important to reward yourself immediately so that the benefits are not all in the future.
These rewards don’t have to be anything huge but simply something that you will enjoy after you have completed your exercise. It could be something as simple as a long soak in a bubble bath or even a new, trendy pair of running shoes.
Having something to look forward to can motivate you to run for an extra five minutes or do another lap of the swimming pool.
You can also set yourself a target for the week or month and if you reach it, reward yourself with something bigger such as a meal out in a nice restaurant.
Put More Movement Into Your Daily Life
If you want to start exercising but don’t want to dive straight into walking, jogging or swimming then you can incorporate movement into your daily life. This is particularly helpful for someone who has been sedentary for a long time or is an older person.
Modern life has taught us to rely heavily on technology and gadgets to make our lives easier. This can be a good thing, but it can also make us sluggish and reluctant to do things for ourselves.
Try putting away gadgets like remote controls and make the effort to stand up and walk to the TV to change channels. Or do the dishes yourself rather than relying on a dishwasher.
Gentle exercise for older people is advised, as doing too much too fast can be detrimental to their health. Having a dog is a wonderful thing for an elderly person as they have companionship and have a reason to go for a walk every day.
It is important to stay motivated when you first start exercising. You won’t see any real results at first, and it can be easy to get disheartened.
Finding ways to remain positive and determined to carry on with your exercise routine will help you to persevere.
Scheduling times to exercise makes it part of your daily routine and exercising with a friend or group gives you accountability. Choose a time of day when you typically have the most energy and this will help you rather than trying to exercise when you are tired.
We all have things that motivate us so find what works for you to help you stick with your exercise regime.
We hope that you have enjoyed our guide to starting an exercise program.
Remember the only one getting in the way of a healthier lifestyle is yourself. So get moving!
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