Exercise

Creating a lighter, healthier you is a multi-step process. One of the most important steps, and the main focus of this section, is exercise. Here we explore everything from the benefits of exercise to how much and how often it is necessary to promote weight loss.

6 Ways to Start Your Exercise Plan

Looking to start exercising but not sure where to begin? You are not alone. Learn how to confidently master exercise for beginners with these simple steps and tips!

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You made changes to the diet in hopes to lose weight and have made leaps and bounds in your progress. You feel exercising is the next step for your health so you search "gym workout plan for weight loss beginners." 

Starting an exercise regimen does not have to be an overwhelming task. What's more, a workout plan can lead to numerous health benefits even beyond weight. These include, but are not limited to:

• Lowered risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes

• Enhanced mood

• Boosted immune system

• Improved sleep

• Sharpened cognitive processes

Inspired and ready to lace up those tennis shoes? Learn how to confidently master exercise for beginners with these simple tips!

6 Ways to Start Your Exercise Plan

Jump into a safe and effective exercise routine in just six steps. Not only are they simple, but protect from injury while keeping you on task and motivated!

1. Talk to the Professionals

First and foremost, consult with the professionals. While you know yourself and fitness levels the best, they can help devise a safe and effective plan for you. 

Helpful professionals to consider reaching out to include a primary care provider, personal trainer, and physical therapist.

Primary Care Provider

Brisk walking and other moderate activities are generally safe for most. However, consulting with primary care provider is especially important if:

• New to exercise. 

• Managing a healthcare condition such as diabetes or diseases of the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

• Taking medications, as some can cause dizziness and other potentially dangerous side effects.

• Experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, swelling, and joint pain.

Personal Trainer

A personal trainer is knowledgeable in prescribing and instructing exercises. This is particularly critical if new to weight lifting, as they can review proper starting positions and manipulations.

Physical Therapist

While not everyone requires a physical therapist, they can be helpful for those who have an injury or underwent surgery. A physical therapist helps one regain strength and exercise safely. 

2. Create SMART Goals

Creating goals starts with identifying your purpose for wanting to start exercising. Reflect on why you want to be more active, whether it be to lose weight or get fit to play with grandkids for the long-term.

After determining your "why," take the next step in making SMART goals: 

• Specific: Be specific with goals, as generic goals may inhibit proper focus and needed efforts to achieve them. Specific goals should be clear and answer the questions of who, what, when, where, and why? 

Measurable: A measurable goal is essential for tracking progress and setting deadlines. A measurable goal may identify "how much?" and "how many?"

• Achievable: Goals should be challenging, but they also still should be achievable. Answering, "How can I accomplish this goal?" is helpful for identifying resources and tools you may need. Potential barriers that you may need to overcome are surfaced as well. 

• Realistic: Stay honest with yourself and make realistic goals within reason. Consider abilities and commitments needed to acquire anticipated these goals.

• Timely: Goals need target dates and times to keep you progressively moving towards it. A set time frame helps one prioritize everyday responsibilities, keeping desired goals on the forefront. They can assist in accomplishing day-to-day tasks that align with a longer-term target goal, too.

These examples help clarify the difference between a general and SMART goal:

General exercise goal #1: "I want to run a mile."

SMART goal: "I will work up to a mile by running in 5-minute increments at least three times per week."

General goal #2: "I want to get stronger."

SMART goal: "I will strength train with a personal trainer at least twice per week."

General goal #3: "I want to be more flexible."

SMART goal: "I will practice flexibility with yoga or other stretches four times per week."

3. Start Small & Include Short Bouts of Movement

One of the best rules is to start small and keep it simple. With time, your body will accommodate to these changes and be ready to step it up a notch. 

So, slowly increase intensity and duration over several weeks or months to prevent injury. This may include brisk walking for a couple of weeks, then start working towards a light jog.

Try to include short bouts of movement in the day as well. Even five minutes of movement is beneficial! Ways to naturally adopt a more active lifestyle include:

• Walking the dog in the morning.
• Doing some jumping jacks while the coffee brews.
• Using the steps over the elevator.
• Parking further away from store entrances.
• Biking to work if capable.

4. Trial a Variety of Exercises

Standard workout routines generally include cardio or aerobic exercises and strength training sessions. 

Cardio is any sort of exercise that elevates heart rate, including brisk walking, running, and biking. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes vigorous exercise weekly.

Strength training is the act of building strength and muscle. One is recommended to strength train at least two times weekly while focusing on the major muscle groups. 

But there are so many types of exercises out there beyond running on a treadmill and lifting weights, including:

• Salsa dancing
• Zumba
• Yoga
• Kickboxing
• Pilates

Trial a variety of exercises to find out which you enjoy the most, as falling in love with physical activity inspires a lifetime fitness!

5. Find Ways to Keep You Focused

Find and implement meaningful ways to leverage and sustain focus and motivation. These may include writing down goals, using visual reminders, and offering yourself once goals are met. Working out with a buddy can be helpful, too!

Write Down Goals

Writing down goals has shown to be one of the most effective ways of sticking to them. In fact, research has even shown people who write down goals are more likely to achieve them. Reading and telling others about your goals can be helpful, too.

Jot down your goals so they can be reviewed and accessed easily. This may include a post-it stuck to the fridge or on a notepad in your office. 

Use Visual Reminders

Make visual reminders that align with your personal reason for what sparked your goal in the first place. 

An example of a visual reminder may be a copy of a race confirmation or picture of a finish line. If your "why" is to be healthy for loved ones, include them in the process. Have friends and family write down motivational words that will truly keep you fueled with inspiration. 

These reminders should mostly reflect on how you want to feel, not necessarily material items you want, including feelings of strength and happiness. Modify visions as needed, particularly as views flourish amidst a healthier lifestyle!

Gift Yourself Rewards

Worked up to running a mile over the past month? Made it to the gym at least three times per week? Take the time to congratulate all the effort and gift yourself a reward. 

Rewards to consider may include a new pair of running shoes or taking a rest day for an hour massage. No matter how you choose to treat yourself, allowing yourself to do so can keep you inspired during this fitness journey!

Practice Self-Acceptance

We truly can be our toughest critics and allow negative thoughts and feelings flood our heads. However, take the time to recognize all the positive changes you have made! 

Recognize that fitness and health is an ongoing process and there will be roadblocks, barriers, and obstacles to overcome. Stop focusing on the anticipated outcome, live in the moment, and enjoy the ride! 

Find a Workout Buddy

Sometimes a little support is all that we need to stay motivated. Find a friend or family member with similar goals to join you. 

Having a workout buddy will likewise keep each other accountable. And if weight training, they make a great spotter!

6. Monitor Progress Along the Way 

Monitoring progress helps you keep tabs on goals and actions, including whether or not they are taking place. So, check-in with progress on a regular basis and make notes and what worked well and what did not not. 

For instance, if you made a goal to go to the gym three times per week but only went twice, explore why sessions fell short. Maybe this was due to unplanned, longer work nights. To counter, consider going in the morning hours before heading into work.

If you regularly hit goals, consider expanding and making them a bit more challenging. Constantly challenging yourself is where the most growth occurs, anyways!

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on December 08, 2016. Updated on January 22, 2020.

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