It’s no secret that starting a fitness/exercise program (and sticking with it for the long-term) is very important for overall health. Physical activity reduces risks of many chronic diseases, improves mental well being, we sleep better, increases our self esteem and of course helps us lose or maintain weight. So, how do we start a fitness/exercise program? Here are five easy to follow steps to get you started.
- Assess your fitness level
Consider your current activity level (ie: do you have a sedentary job or are you on your feet all day; or, do you currently have some level of activity?) then document your benchmarks for the following:
– Pulse rate before and immediately after walking one mile
– Time to walk one mile, or, time to run 1.5 miles
– Maximum number of push ups you can do continuously
– Your flexibility, while seated reach toward your toes
– Waist size, measured from hipbones
- Design your fitness program
Consider your fitness goals. For example, lose weight, train for a 5k, 10k, or full marathon, train for other event. Having a clear goal will help you stay focused, progress toward your goal and keep you motivated.
Create a balanced routine. A good standard for weekly activity is 150 minutes of moderate aerobics or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobics (you can also complete a combination of both). Of course the time you spend working out is spread over one week, for example, 30 minutes each day for five days and two days off. It’s important to note that small amounts of activity throughout a single day counts toward your weekly 150 minutes of activity.
Another important component is full body strength training. Try to incorporate strength training two days per week. If you are new to strength training you might consider starting with one set of 12-15 repetitions using a weight that will tire your muscles. As you progress you can increase the number of sets to three along with the amount of weight.
Keep in mind, again if you are just starting out, it is important to begin slow and progress slowly. And, before beginning any exercise program, see your doctor to be sure there are medical issues or restrictions you need to be aware of.
Once you begin, add activity into your daily routine. By scheduling time to exercise it serves as a reminder and keeps you focused. When scheduling your workouts make them convenient. If you are working out at home, workout while watching your favorite TV show or take a speed walk during your lunch break.
Try to incorporate a variety of activities like walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics, cycling/spinning, weight training, volley ball, or other sports you enjoy. If possible, include family or friends in your workout to make them fun and spend quality time together.
Lastly, allow time for recovery. Its easy to be excited and jump into a new exercise program and workout too long or too intensely, this often leads to injuries, sore muscles and joints, which can lead to giving up.
- Determine what equipment you’ll need
Once you decide on what types of activities you plan to do, you can then determine what equipment you’ll need. For example, if you plan to walk/run you’ll need a good pair of running shoes. Unless you plan to join a gym, you may need to purchase some weights, resistance bands, pull-up bar, kettle bells, etc.
Other things to consider:
– Lose fitting clothing to wear during your workouts
– Using a fitness app for your smart phone/tablet
– Using a fitness watch/tracker
– Using a heart rate monitor
– Using a nutrition tracker like “myfitnesspal”
- Get moving
Now that you’re ready to begin here are a few tips:
– Always complete a slow warm-up and cool down
– Once you’re warmed-up increase intensity slowly
– Gradually increase the amount of time you exercise
– If you don’t have 30 minutes, complete three 10-minute sessions
– Look for new activities, like hiking, family walks, rowing
– Always listen to your body, if you feel pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or nausea, stop and rest. If the discomfort doesn’t go away within a few minutes, seek medical attention.
– Allow yourself flexibility, if you aren’t feeling well, it’s best to
take the day off and return to activity once you’re ready.
- Monitor your progress
Once you begin your fitness journey, and of course stick with it, it’s important to monitor your progress. About every six-eight weeks you may notice you’ll need to increase your workout intensity or time you spend working out. That’s your signal that you are progressing. In some cases, you may also find that your current activity level is just right and you are reaching or maintaining your fitness goals.
Try to maintain your motivation by exercising with a group, a friend or family member. Working out with a group helps you stay motivated while having the added benefit of group encouragement.
Staring a fitness journey is an important step to living a healthy lifestyle. If you plan carefully, seek help from a fitness professional, a nutritionist (if needed) and simply enjoying your workouts; you’ll quickly find that you can easily create a lifelong plan to fitness.