Congratulations on your decision to get into shape! It is one that can make you feel better physically, but the benefits can go much further. Exercise can boost your mood, help you think more clearly, and keep away unwanted pounds.
If you’re not used to exercising, the most important piece of advice is to start slowly. Starting too fast can get you injured, discourage you if you feel disappointed in yourself, and lead to burnout. This is how you can start slow with exercise so you can make it part of your life for the long-term.
First, get your doctor’s go-ahead. A physical may be in order if you have not been to the doctor recently. Tell your doctor that you are eager to start exercising, and ask whether you have any restrictions on the types of activities you can do. Once you are cleared, you’re good to go!
Lay the Foundation for a Habit
Your workout time is not yet a regular part of your day if you have not been doing regular exercise recently. Fitting it into your schedule can be a challenge, so it’s important to think about when you plan to exercise each day. Think of this as your exercise time, and try to avoid making work and other commitments during this time.
At the beginning, you may not be ready to exercise for this entire period of time. You can get into your workout clothes, walk a little, and do some stretching. These actions will help you get into the habit of working out at this time because your mind will get used to it and start to expect it. As you progress, it will feel natural to have this dedicated time for exercise.
Injuries are no fun. They are painful and inconvenient, they can be expensive, and they can make you modify or stop your activity. They can set back your good intentions to exercise by weeks or months.
Unfortunately, they are all too common. Baby boomers alone account for over 1 million activity-related injuries a year, and the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, or NEISS, reports that about 4 million sports-related injuries occurred in the U.S. in 2012.
Examples of common workout-related injuries include the following.
- Muscle pulls.
- Tendinitis in the knee, Achilles, hip, elbow, and shoulder.
- Sprained ankles and wrists.
- Shin splints.
Injury prevention is one of the biggest keys to starting an exercise program successfully, and you can help prevent injuries by being cautious. Here are a few tips to prevent injuries regardless of which type of exercise you choose to do.
- Start slowly and build only gradually. Doing too much, too fast is a surefire way to get hurt.
- Warm up with a slow walk before you workout, and cool down with a slow walk when you are finished.
- Remember to take days off. You are being smart, not lazy, when you plan days off. That might be once a week or every other day.
- Listen to your body and rest if needed. There is a difference between normal soreness when you first begin exercising or try a new activity, and pain that indicates the onset of an injury. You may need a day off if you are exceptionally sore.
- Wear the proper shoes for your activity. Use walking shoes if you are walking, tennis shoes if you are playing tennis, and running shoes if you are running. This is no time to try to save money by buying a cheap pair of shoes.
- Choose a low-risk activity. Bicycling, for example, has among the highest numbers of annual injuries, while the numbers for trampolines are much lower.
Choose Your Activity, and Make It Fun
If it is boring, you won’t keep it up. You’ll find excuses to skip your workout. If it is fun, you will be consistent. “Fun” means something different to different people, so you will need to figure out for yourself what makes exercise “fun.” Is it…?
- Going for long walks by yourself, away from the hectic environment of your work and home?
- Dancing in a group fitness class at the gym?
- Bouncing on a bellicon mini trampoline at home where you can play with your kids or watch TV?
- Playing basketball with your neighbors?
Gather Your Equipment
Make of list of everything you will need to exercise. The items on your list depend on which activities you plan to do. At a minimum, you need good shoes and comfortable clothing. A gym membership may be another investment.
If you are planning to work out at home, you may need exercise equipment such as treadmills and free weights. If the list gets to be too long, you might look into fitness machines that have multiple benefits. For example, a bellicon mini trampoline is suitable for beginners and it provides cardio and strength training benefits.
Beginning an exercise program is exciting and challenging. You can get yours started safely by consulting with your doctor and being cautious with your workouts. You may see benefits very soon!