Deciding to get back into exercise or adopt a new fitness routine is one of the best things you can do for your health.
But it can also be tiring. Should you go back to the interval training program you already tried, or look for something more fun? And how do you step up your exercise if you’re feeling out of shape?
To help you get started on an exercise plan and not give up, we consulted fitness pros on tips for setting realistic goals, reducing your risk of injury, and actually feeling your best.
FIRST, MAKE YOUR WIN EASIER
Trying to radically change your behavior for a broader goal like getting in shape requires a level of motivation that can be difficult to maintain. Instead, set appropriately sized, measurable goals, such as getting at least ten minutes of exercise a day.
It’s okay if you’re not measuring up to what your friends are doing, or even what you were able to do before. Pushing yourself too hard will only make you more prone to burnout and injury, and may cause you to stop exercising altogether.
You’re more likely to repeat an activity you enjoy, so try a sport you enjoyed in high school, or combine exercise with watching your favorite TV show or podcast. And limit how much you exercise – at least at first – so you can reach and even exceed your goal. This will encourage you to move forward.
“People get fixated on cultivating motivation,” said Al Hyle, a strength coach who specializes in helping people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who sometimes have trouble starting activities. “You just need to do a little something. The motivation will come later.”
TAKE TIME FOR BODYBUILDING
When you are exercising regularly, incorporate movements to increase the strength and flexibility of your muscles. This will make it easier to do more strenuous activities and protect your joints from injury, said Gabrielle Lyon, a Houston-based functional medicine specialist and author of “Forever Strong: A New, Science-Based Strategy for Aging Well.” [Forte para sempre: uma nova estratégia baseada na ciência para envelhecer bem].
Try functional exercises like push-ups or squats at home, or use weight machines at the gym. Most experts recommend doing three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions for each exercise, focusing on your fitness. Then add one or two new exercises a week, until you are working all muscle groups—chest, back, shoulders, arms, abs, and legs—at least twice a week.
Increase the resistance when you’re ready, or stop doing a set number of reps and start exercising your muscles until exhaustion. You can determine when to start this by evaluating your perceived exertion score. On a scale of 1 to 10, you should be in the middle, Hyle said. If it seems easier than that, make the workout more challenging.
GRADUALLY INCREASE CARDIOVASCULAR RESISTANCE
Whatever your exercise routine, you’ll need to work on cardiovascular endurance. Most people can start with low-impact activities like walking or even climbing stairs at the office.
Strive to increase your light aerobic exercise time by a few minutes every two weeks. The heart’s ability to pump blood, also known as stroke volume, improves rapidly, said Dr. Benjamin Gordon, assistant professor of applied physiology and kinesiology at the University of Florida. “In just the first ten days of training we’ve already seen a change of about 10% in people’s stroke volume,” said Gordon. This means you’ll soon be able to exercise for longer.
You should aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week to get the best benefits, the doctor said.
PLAN BACKUP EXERCISES AND CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENTS
Prepare yourself for the things that once messed up your exercise routine. For example, if you skipped training because you didn’t have time to fit it into your day, consider setting reminders to exercise at 6am, 12pm, and 5pm. So you can do it at least in one of these hours. Or try exercising in short bursts: do squats or balance on one foot while brushing your teeth, or leave some hand weights on your desk for reps while you’re on calls.
Celebrate the small steps toward fitness, Hyle said. Take photos or do a monthly exercise assessment to measure your progress, or see if it’s easier to carry grocery bags. Remember that it may take time to notice external changes.
“What’s the hurry?” said Doctor Gordon. “This is a lifestyle change, so you should adopt the philosophy that you will continue to try to improve your fitness for the rest of your life.”