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6 Steps to Starting an Exercise Program6 Steps to Starting an Exercise Program


Line of people doing push-ups

Exercise doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you are struggling to get started, there are some simple steps you can take to ease your way into a routine. Use the guide below, and you will be on your way to reaching your fitness goals!

  1. Determine your long-term goals. Exercise does more than shed pounds — it improves heart health and builds lean muscle. If your goal is to reduce your risk of disease, 150 minutes a week of brisk walking is adequate. It takes a larger commitment of time and effort to build muscle mass or compete in a road race. Decide what health and fitness level you want to achieve, and be open to these goals changing over time.

  2. Know your starting point. If you are inactive, jumping into a challenging exercise program is unwise. Too much exercise at too high an intensity can result in injury, burnout, and excessive soreness. Begin at a level you can stick with. If you are sedentary, this may mean a 10-minute walk five days a week. If your daily routine keeps you moving, a 30-minute walk, jog, or bike ride five days a week is an excellent place to start. Once your body gets accustomed to activity, you can try new activities or increase time or distance.

  3. Make a realistic time commitment. Is it realistic for you to exercise 60 minutes 7 days a week? If not, don’t make a plan that is destined to fail. Analyze your schedule and determine how to adjust it to fit in exercise. This may require giving up a less important activity or making small changes (such as waking earlier). If time is an issue, aim for vigorous activities (such as high-intensity interval training or running). The American College of Sports Medicine states that adults can meet exercise recommendations through 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity three days per week.

  4. Limit how you prepare. It is tempting to go all out with new purchases — workout clothes, tennis shoes, music, and mileage-tracking devices. When people start exercising, they often make a big investment, believing it will motivate them to stick with it. You only need tennis shoes and loose-fitting clothing to get started. Begin with the minimum, and reward yourself with specialty clothing, music, and gadgets after you stick with your program for at least two weeks.

  5. Keep everything on a trial basis. Just because you try an activity does not mean you have to do it forever. In fact, it is beneficial to switch up your routine every 4 to 6 weeks because it forces your body to adapt to new challenges and reduces boredom. If you don’t like an activity, you don’t have to stick with it. There are a variety of things you can do for exercise. Try out several until you find some you truly enjoy.

  6. Track it. Tracking your exercise keeps you accountable and shows your progress over time. The MyFoodDiary exercise log allows you to enter your activity and determine your calories burned, which helps in your weight loss efforts. You can review your log regularly to determine if you need to increase exercise time or intensity or if you need to add some new activities to vary your routine.

Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
Eat better. Feel better. MyFoodDiary Categories Exercise
Weight Loss
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