How do I start exercising?

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If you’re having trouble starting an exercise plan or following one, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle to get out of a sedentary routine, despite our best intentions.

You already know that there are many good reasons to exercise – from improving energy, mood, sleep and health to reducing anxiety, stress and depression. Detailed exercise instructions and exercise plans are just a click away. But if knowing how and why to exercise was enough, we’d all be in shape. For exercise to become a habit, you need more – a smart approach and the right mindset.

While practical issues like a busy schedule or poor health can make exercise more difficult, for most of us the biggest barriers are mental. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence that keeps you from taking positive steps, your motivation fades quickly, or you get discouraged and give up easily

No matter your age or fitness level – even if you’ve never exercised in your life – there are steps you can take to make exercise less intimidating and painful and more fun and instinctive.


If sweating it out at the gym or running on the treadmill isn’t your idea of fun, try finding an activity you enjoy – like dancing – or combine physical activity with something more enjoyable. Take a walk in a scenic park, for example, stroll through an air-conditioned mall while you shop, walk, jog or go for a bike ride with a friend, or listen to your favorite music on the go.

Even the busiest people can find free time during the day for important activities. It’s your decision to make exercise a priority. And don’t think you need a full hour for a good workout. Short 5-, 10-, or 15-minute exercise series can be very effective – just as you can fit an entire workout into a few sessions over the weekend. If you’re too busy during the week, get up and move on the weekend when you have more time.

It may seem counterintuitive, but physical activity is a powerful stimulant that actually reduces fatigue and increases energy levels in the long run. With regular exercise all the time, you’ll feel much more energized, refreshed and alert.

It is never too late to start building your strength and fitness, even if you are a senior citizen or a declared couch potato who has never exercised before. Very few health or weight issues preclude you from exercising, so talk to your doctor about a safe routine. Even if you have to put on XXL women’s sweatpants – don’t worry. It’s always good to exercise.

Something to get you started

You don’t have to spend hours at the gym or force yourself to do monotonous or painful activities you hate to experience the physical and emotional benefits of exercise. A little exercise is better than nothing. In fact, adding a small amount of physical activity to your weekly schedule can have a huge impact on your mental and emotional health.

Be kind to yourself. Studies show that being compassionate to yourself increases the likelihood that you will be successful in any endeavor. So don’t worry about your body, your current fitness level or your supposed lack of willpower. All it will do is demotivate you. Instead, look at your past mistakes and unhealthy choices as opportunities to learn and grow.

Check your expectations. You didn’t lose your shape overnight and you’re not going to transform your body immediately. Expecting too much, too soon only leads to frustration. Try not to get discouraged by what you can’t achieve or how far you have to go to reach your fitness goals. Instead of obsessing over results, focus on consistency. While improvements in mood and energy levels may come quickly, the physical benefits will come over time.

Photo credit: Tim Samuel/

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