Ready to start an exercise program? That’s great, but there are several steps you should take if you want your exercise regimen to be successful.
1. Determine Your Readiness for Exercise. There are two elements you must consider before starting an exercise program. The first is your physical readiness. The only way to determine if you are physically ready for exercise is through a medical exam. Tell your doctor you want to begin a fitness program and you want to make sure you are healthy enough to start. The second consideration is your mental readiness. Specifically, you must consider how likely you are to stick with an exercise program once you begin. Research has identified several factors that are related to long-term success including past exercise experience, high self-confidence in regards to exercise, a positive view of exercise, an awareness of the positive health benefits of exercise, support from family and friends, and convenience. The more of these factors you have in your favor, the more likely you will have success in your fitness program.
2. Focus on Increased Activity, Not a Formal Exercise Program. You do not have to engage in vigorous physical activity to increase your level of fitness and improve your overall health. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine has emphasized that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (e.g., walking, golfing) on most days is enough to realize important health benefits. While this will not prepare you to run a marathon or ride the Tour de France, you will reach a higher fitness level than a sedentary person. You will also feel better.
3. Select an Exercise You Really Enjoy. Maintaining a long-term exercise program is highly correlated with enjoying that program. You will almost certainly quit if you do not enjoy your fitness regimen! Therefore, make sure you select activities you really like. Remember, you have a range of activities to choose from such as walking, cycling, running, weightlifting, rollerblading, dancing, golf, handball, tennis, racquetball, basketball and many more.
4. Learn How to Perform the Exercise Safely. The single biggest reason exercise programs fail is injury. An injury can include significant damage to muscle tissue such as a sprain or the relatively minor muscle damage that manifests itself in soreness. Either situation can diminish your motivation to exercise. Therefore, whatever activity you choose, make sure you learn how to perform it safely and take it easy, especially in the beginning.
5. Exercise with Others. Boredom is another common reason exercise programs fail. One way to overcome this problem is to exercise with friends. This provides several benefits including a sense of camaraderie, a positive social experience and the ability to push each other to higher levels of performance. Remember, for this to work you have to find an exercise all participants can enjoy, and you’ll need to accommodate varying degrees of fitness.
6. Participate in Organized Fitness Events. A great way to motivate yourself is to take part in an organized fitness event. On any given weekend, there are literally thousands of fitness events, competitive and non-competitive, geared toward a variety of physical activities. These include swimming, climbing, cycling, hiking, running, walking, rollerblading and racquet sports. Choose an activity you really enjoy and take part with a friend.
7. Prepare for Setbacks. No matter how successful you are with your fitness regimen, you will experience setbacks. There will be missed workouts, poor eating days and plateaus where you just can’t seem to improve. Don’t worry about it! Setbacks are inevitable, so recognize that they will happen and don’t get down on yourself. Just focus on getting back on schedule as soon as you can.