Fitness…exercise…moving around. Whatever you want to call it, everyone needs regular physical activity to maintain their health — young, old, overweight, healthy, managing chronic disease, or disabled. So if you’re thinking that routine exercise is only for fitness fanatics and those who are trying to lose weight, think again!
By now you’ve probably heard many of the good things that can happen when you start exercising, both for body and mind. The list includes better heart health, higher self-esteem, improved mood, better sleep, weight control, memory enhancement, increased mobility, stress management, and longer life expectancy. Some doctors are even prescribing exercise to patients dealing with issues like high blood pressure, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes.
But if you’re new to exercise or starting over after a long break, getting started can be an intimidating process.
Deciding to be more active is half the battle. The next step is to actually start exercising. It’s easy to let physical limitations or busy schedules get in the way, but just about everyone can do something. The trick is to pick an activity you enjoy and a schedule that is sustainable for you.
A half-hearted attempt to start exercising can end pretty quickly (ever have a New Year’s resolution that fizzled by February?), so it’s also great to establish a goal that you can stick to. You can talk to your doctor before you get started about what your goals should be.
You’ll also need to decide what you want to do, and it’s important that you enjoy it. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Joining a gym offers variety
Joining a gym is a great option for some, providing easy access to a variety of equipment, trainers, and group exercise classes. And if you’re an Independence Blue Cross member, you can even get discounts at thousands of gyms. Many will schedule a complimentary training session for new members, so be sure to take advantage of that to get a feel for the equipment and find exercises that are right for you.
If you like working with a trainer but don’t want to pay for weekly sessions, consider meeting with one every few months. Tell the trainer you’d like a full-body routine that you can do on your own — call it independent study! You can start where you are, build strength as you practice the routine on your own, and then come back a few months later when your body is ready for new and more challenging exercises.
A gym’s price tag or contract may be seriously unappealing to some. Luckily, there are non-gym alternatives! If you like a gym-style workout, there are plenty of workout apps and on-demand workouts that can guide you through a sweat session at home and help you track your progress. And if the gym isn’t for you, then you’ll need to find your spirit exercise!
Finding something you love to do is the easiest way to start exercising and stick to a regular schedule. There are plenty of people who are avid exercisers who never step foot in the gym — here are some ideas for non-gym alternatives:
- Walking — Especially if you’ve been inactive for a period of time, walking can be a great starting place for getting into exercise.
- Running — Even if you’ve never taken a jog, there are programs that help non-runners become runners if the idea of a quiet run on an open road is attractive to you.
- Dancing — If you love to dance, whether it’s ballroom, line dancing, Zumba®, or Jazzercise®, find a dance class near you and boogie down.
- Fitness studios — There are so many fitness studios that focus on one type of exercise, including boxing, yoga, spinning, and Pilates. Many offer a free or discounted trial class so you can try it before you commit to it.
- Recreational sports — Many towns offer adult leagues for sports like softball, basketball, and soccer. Not only is it a great way to exercise, but you’ll also be meeting new people.
- Cycling — Depending on where you live, biking to work may be a great way to get in your daily workout, and if you don’t have a bike, you can get started with Indego bike share.
Fitness Tips for Newbies
Here’s the truth: If you’ve taken some time off, you will probably feel a little creaky or uncoordinated the first time you work out. But it will quickly get easier — I promise! Regardless of what form of exercise you’ve chosen, these fitness tips for newbies will help you get a smooth start:
- Pace yourself. Try small but frequent doses when you first start exercising. You want to ease your body in to avoid injuries that would keep you from continuing your new routine. As you build endurance, you can go for longer.
- Be consistent. Your initial goal is to get your mind and body into the habit of exercising, so aim for consistency first. Once you get into a good routine, you can start to shift your focus to the intensity of your workout.
- Don’t compare. Do not — I repeat, do not! — compare where you are with anyone else. There may be people who are faster, stronger, or less winded all around you, but that’s not your concern. The only competition you’re in is with yourself, to be healthier than when you first started. Remember that everyone around you was a beginner at one point too!
I’ve had that “starting over” feeling with exercise twice, after each of my kids was born. It’s not easy to jump back in, but it’s always been worth it. Feeling stronger and leaner are obviously welcome benefits that I usually notice about eight weeks after exercising consistently. But what I’m always amazed with is the improvement in my mood and outlook, which happens almost immediately.
You’re only steps away (literally) from reaping the benefits yourself!
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.