There is no debating the profound positive effects physical exercise can have on your body. It is one of the best ways to immediately increase your mood (1), so you can enhance your ability to fight off all the stresses of life. Exercise can also give your energy (2) levels a boost. No matter what your age or experience, there are things you can start doing today to help you build an effective long-lasting exercise program. It’s important to view exercise as a lifelong journey. Many people are battling chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or osteoporosis but, physical activity can delay or even prevent these diseases from being an inevitable outcome later in life. If you are having trouble figuring out how to start and maintain an effective exercise program, read through the next few points so you know what practical first steps to take.
Step 1 – Why have you decided to start exercising?
This is the most critical component of any exercise program. Your decision to start a healthier lifestyle should guide you towards an exercise program that fits you best. If you desire to lose weight, then you need a weight loss program. If you want to gain muscle, you need a muscle building exercise program. The great thing about any exercise program, is the fact that most people who increase their levels of physical activity can help reduce their chances of developing chronic disease (3). If the why behind your exercise program is unclear, then you will have a difficult time deciding what exercise program you should do. In general, starting with something is better than nothing if the activities you are choosing are safe for you. For more information on how to find your “why”, check out episode 3 of our 9-5 Fitness Podcast. Find more workout motivation here.
Step 2- Know your limitations
Knowing your current fitness level will help you filter through most workouts that are not appropriate for your current physical abilities and more specifically, your goals. While many may know their starting point for a weight loss journey from the bathroom scale, body weight is just one measurement that should be taken to help you understand what exercise program is the most appropriate for your goals. Certain activities may not be appropriate for you, if you are carrying an excessive amount of body weight. If you have high blood pressure or a higher than normal resting heart rate, you may need to be more careful participating in higher intensity cardio workouts. If you have never lifted dumbbells or barbells, then performing an advanced weightlifting program is probably not something you should jump right into if your goal is to gain muscle mass and increase strength. The best way to find out your limitations and get an appropriate recommendation on what exercise program to start would be to speak with your doctor and get an assessment with a certified personal trainer. For more information on how to evaluate your fitness levels, check out our 5 ways to evaluate your health and fitness article on the sunny health and fitness website.
Step 3 – Be consistent
A great exercise program won’t get you anywhere if you don’t do it. Shifting your focus from the short term to the long term can help you stay on track for the long-lasting benefits of a consistent exercise program. One way to help you shift to a long-term goal is to set smaller goals that are more attainable in the short term. For example, if your goal is to lose 50 pounds you are going to need to schedule a significant amount of time focused on diet modification and increased activity levels. I would recommend that you make a series of small changes rather than trying to change your whole lifestyle in one day. It’s also important to know that you can be flexible with your exercise program. Consistency when it comes to exercise is recognizing that you need to engage in an appropriate amount without being stuck on the same workouts day after day. Check out our 5 strategies to keep your fitness resolutions for more help on being consistent.
Step 4 – Never stop progressing
Once you get comfortable with your consistent exercise program, you need to look for ways to push your body to the next level. Plateaus in training are a regular occurrence and take place when you continue to perform the same workouts over and over while failing to see continued progress towards your goal. If a workout is too easy, try a harder one; if you get faster at walking a mile, try walking a longer distance and if you can do 20 pushups with ease, aim for 30. Mixing up your exercise program can also help keep you from getting bored. There are many ways to help you boost your fitness result. We have expanded on 3 concepts to help you maintain progress towards your goals in our article called “3 things you should be doing to boost your fitness results”.
(1) “Effects of Single Bouts of Walking Exercise and Yoga on Acute Mood Symptoms in People With Multiple Sclerosis”. US National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2016, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26917992/. Accessed 27 March. 2020.
(2) “A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Aerobic Exercise Training on Feelings of Energy and Fatigue in Sedentary Young Adults With Persistent Fatigue”. US National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2008, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18277063/. Accessed 27 March. 2020.
(3) “Lack of Exercise is A Major Cause of Chronic Diseases”. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4241367/. Accessed 27 March. 2020.