If you’re having trouble beginning an exercise plan or following through, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle getting out of the sedentary rut, despite our best intentions.
You already know there are many great reasons to exercise — from improving energy, mood, sleep, and health to reducing anxiety, stress and depression. And detailed exercise instructions and workout plans are just a click away. But if knowing how and why to exercise was enough, we’d all be in shape. Making exercise a habit takes more — you need the right mindset and a smart approach.
While practical concerns like a busy schedule or poor health can make exercise more challenging, for most of us, the biggest barriers are mental. Maybe it’s a lack of self-confidence that keeps you from taking positive steps, or your motivation quickly flames out, or you get easily discouraged and give up. We’ve all been there at some point.
Whatever your age or fitness level—even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life —there are steps you can take to make exercise less intimidating and painful and more fun and instinctive.
Getting started safely
If you’ve never exercised before, or it’s been a significant amount of time since you’ve attempted any strenuous physical activity, keep the following health precautions in mind:
Get medical clearance first. If you have health concerns such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor before you start to exercise.
Warm up with dynamic stretches — active movements that warm and flex the muscles you’ll be using, such as leg kicks, walking lunges, or arm swings — and by doing a slower, easier version of the upcoming exercise. For example, if you’re going to run, warm up with walking. Or if you’re lifting weights, begin with a few light reps.
After your workout, it’s important to take a few minutes to cool down and allow your heart rate to return to its resting rate. A light jog or walk after a run, for example, or some gentle stretches after strength exercises can also help prevent soreness and injuries.
Drink plenty of water
Your body performs best when it’s properly hydrated. Failing to drink enough water when you are exerting yourself over a prolonged period of time, especially in hot conditions, can be dangerous.
Listen to your body
If you feel pain or discomfort while working out, stop! If you feel better after a brief rest, you can slowly and gently resume your workout. But don’t try to power through pain. That’s a surefire recipe for injury.
How to stay motivated to exercise?
No matter how much you enjoy an exercise routine, you may find that you eventually lose interest in it. That’s the time to shake things up and try something new or alter the way you pursue the exercises that have worked so far.
Pair your workout with a treat
For example, you can listen to an audiobook or watch your favorite TV show while on the treadmill or stationary bike.
Log your activity
Keep a record of your workouts and fitness progress. Writing things down increases commitment and holds you accountable to your routine. Later on, it will also be encouraging to look back at where you began.
Harness the power of the community
Having others root for us and support us through exercise ups and downs helps to keep motivation strong. Join our Facebook Page and you will get a daily dose of inspiration from our community of fitties. You can also try working out with friends either in person or remotely using fitness apps that let you track and compare your progress with each other.
Read a health and fitness magazine or visit our TikTok and get inspired with videos of trainers demonstrating exercises and encouraging members to complete different workout challenges. Sometimes reading about and looking at images of people who are healthy and fit can motivate you to move your body.