How to get started with exercise

Exercise tips and motivation

Getting started with exercise when it's been a while since last time can be a real slog. The key is to be consistent and keep it interesting – whether that’s stand-up paddle boarding, rock climbing or even just kicking a ball about with the kids. Getting active means getting healthier and getting more out of life.

Finding the inspiration to become more active is easy enough. Becoming more active can be somewhat more difficult – especially if it’s been a while since you last exercised regularly. Not to worry, though. Whether you’re simply out of the habit of exercising, or you’ve never really done much exercise, we have some easy-to-follow tips to get you active this summer.

Are you trying to lose weight? Read our comprehensive guide on weight loss to understand where to begin, what happens when you lose weight, and what doesn't work when it comes to dieting.

Getting a check-up

Why would you need a check-up? If you haven’t exercised in a while, it’s generally recommended that you get the all clear from a medical professional before you start. If you have a heart condition, asthma or diabetes, or if you have issues with your bones, muscles or joints – these can be red flags that require a medical check-up before starting new forms of exercise.

After your check-up, your doctor can advise you on the kinds of activities you could start with. Then, over time, your doctor can help track your progress, offering new kinds of exercise and activities for you to work on that will avoid harmful stresses on your body.

Getting it right

If you opt for a check-up, your doctor should advise you on how much exercise you should be aiming for. If you go it alone, however, you will need to work out how much exercise is right for you. The amount of exercise you should do varies according to your age and your condition.

Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) every week, and muscle strengthening activities (working all major muscle groups) on at least two days per week.

Alternatively, you could opt for 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity (such as running or jogging) every week, or an equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity. This should be done in addition to your two days of muscle strengthening activities.

Different age groups have different requirements. For example, older adults should involve themselves in more activity each week. And remember, this is just the basic recommendation. Putting in more time will often offer even more health benefits.

Finding the fun

Getting active can require motivation and perseverance. To make it easier on yourself, try to find an activity you actually enjoy doing. This could be swimming, cycling, or playing tennis – or it could mean trying something completely new to you, such as martial arts, dancing or soccer.

If you enjoy doing an activity, you are more likely to want to get out and do it. It will also feel less like hard work when you’re taking part. This means you could be getting fitter and healthier, without feeling like you’re having to slog it out all the way.

Preparing for success (and failure)

While we would all like to think our path to healthy living is going to be a movie montage of progressive successes, real life can get in the way. Sometimes it’s going to be hard. Sometimes you’re going to feel like you’re going backwards instead of forwards. Sometimes you’re going to want to throw in the towel.

The important thing is to not give up. Embrace failures as you embrace successes. Learn from all your experiences, put them under your belt, and don’t give up!

Setting goals

When it comes to starting a new exercise plan, it’s important to set goals. But, don’t start too big! Yes, you can know where you want to be, you can have an end goal, but you need to create much smaller targets to get you there. Setting unrealistic targets – and not meeting them – is more likely to put you off and make you want to give up completely. Small goals equal small wins. You’ll get there eventually.

Tracking your progress

When you don’t keep track, you don’t know how far you’ve come. And what makes you want to give up more than anything? Feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. Try to track your progress in measurable terms. This could mean taking photos of yourself, or timing yourself doing certain activities. Keep a record and see just how far you’ve come since you started.

Becoming aware

If you’ve not exercised for a while, it’s usually best to start slow. Getting there gradually means less likelihood of injury – so you can keep going in the long term. Learn to listen to your body, as it can tell you what’s best for you.

More on this topic:

5 reasons we don't exercise – and how you can get started
Walking to lose weight
A whole body workout you can do at home

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