Regular exercise can reduce your risk of anxiety and depression, improve sleep, help with weight management, and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, among many other benefits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With myriad reasons to exercise, why do so many people struggle with making and maintaining a workout routine? Starting a new habit takes time and discipline. By planning your routine and tailoring your activities to your personality, you may be more likely to commit to an active lifestyle.
Here are a few tips to help you start exercising and stick with it.
1. Evaluate Your Fitness Level
Start your fitness journey by taking stock of your health. According to information from the Mayo Clinic, you can assess your fitness level by taking your pulse before and after walking one mile or by timing yourself to see how long you take to walk one mile or run 1.5 miles. You can also see how many pushups you can do at one time, sit on the floor with your legs in front of you and see how far you can reach, measure your waist circumference, or calculate your body mass index. Once you’ve assessed how fit you are, use this information to help design your workout routine.
2. Find Your Motivation
Why are you doing this? To be successful long-term, it is helpful to define why you're exercising and to learn what motivates you. A Johns Hopkins Medicine article suggested envisioning a specific reason why you want to exercise, such as to be able to do activities with your kids. Write your reason down and post it somewhere you will see it regularly or use an app to set a daily reminder for yourself.
Knowing yourself will also make the process easier. Do you love data? Try recording your progress or charting your workouts or weight so you can see the fruits of your labor.
Did you grow up playing a certain sport? Seek out an adult recreation league to make exercising fun and social.
If you're competitive, seek out fitness trackers where you can measure your progress against others online or start a fitness challenge with friends or family members.
3. Make a Plan
Now that you know your starting point and what motivates you, set goals and create a routine that works for you.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. They also recommend that adults perform muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days or more per week.
People crunched for time can try breaking up their exercises with shorter sessions, such as a few 10-minute sessions per day, as opposed to a half-hour-long workout, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Set realistic goals for yourself. If you are new to exercising, try walking for a short time, for 10 to 15 minutes, five days per week, and gradually increase your time, according to the Mayo Clinic. Start your workout slowly with a warm up, speed up your pace, and then cool down.
Gradually increase the amount of time you exercise up to 30 to 60 minutes per session.
If you have any underlying health problems, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Consistency is the most crucial, and most challenging, part of starting a new habit. Set reasonable goals for yourself and stick to a schedule each week to get healthier and feel stronger.