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Overweight woman stretching to begin run.

Are you ready to take the leap and start a new exercise routine? Well, the good news is, you’re not alone! Many people (myself included) find themselves in the same boat: wanting to become more physically healthy and generally just feel better. 

Yes – starting exercise can seem absolutely dreadful when you’re used to a sedentary lifestyle. But it’s actually a great way to boost mental health, increase energy levels, and – yes – help with weight loss.

I don’t know about you, but I could use all of that! Are you with me? 

If so, let’s talk about how to start exercising after years of inactivity – all while maintaining a happy and positive mindset!

Understanding the Dangers of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Okay, so you’ve committed to your goals for health and self care. But it can be dang hard getting off that couch – am I right?

Well, if you need some motivation to get you moving, keep reading. 

In today’s techy age, desk jobs and sedentary behaviors are increasingly normal. But an inactive lifestyle can cause serious damage to our wellbeing and overall health. We’re now being warned of its role in many health conditions. “Sitting is the new smoking,” experts tell us.

Sitting for long periods of time puts us at risk for numerous health issues – including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.

Not staying active can make mental wellbeing suffer, too. Without the release of exercise endorphins and serotonin, a person is more susceptible to depression, stress, anxiety and lack of motivation.

And the problems don’t stop there. It’s been proven that sedentary behavior leads to cognitive decline over the years, weakening short-term memory while affecting decision making skills.

We’re even putting ourselves at higher risk of osteoporosis, due to a decrease in bone density from sitting on our butts all day!

Sitting is the new smoking.

Spending all day sitting can also lead to bad posture and weak core muscles, creating spine imbalances that can eventually cause lower back pain. 

And leading a sedentary lifestyle limits the opportunity for socializing, which is a huge player in mental health and total wellbeing.

Taking all this into consideration, it makes sense to get back on the exercise train, even if we might feel reluctant.

Thankfully, getting more active doesn’t mean we need to become triathletes. There are lots of ways to get enjoyable exercise on a regular basis.

Are we ready? Then let’s get to it.

How to Start Exercising: The First Steps

First things first. It’s important to consider any health issues or concerns before beginning a fitness journey.

It’s always a good idea to first consult with a healthcare provider – like your doctor or other trusted professional – to make sure your overall health can support an active lifestyle. They can point out the best exercises for your current fitness level and any health risks you should be aware of.

Once you have the green light, it’s time to start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your fitness routine won’t be, either!

First, make sure you have good exercise shoes and the right workout clothes. You want to be comfortable and also prevent injuries.

Begin with easy exercises that you enjoy, like going for a brisk walk during your lunch break or taking a quick stroll around the block after dinner. These everyday activities can be built into your daily routine, making it easier for them to become a habit. 

Two women friends walking for exercise.

Want a fun and simple walk to get you started – right in your own living room? Here’s a one-mile walk with Leslie Sansone that’ll put a smile on your face.

Building Strength and Endurance

When you’re ready to step it up a notch, consider incorporating cardiovascular exercises into your routine. These are great for increasing your heart rate and getting your blood pumping.

(Huge benefit: Healthy, glowing skin!)

Activities like a bike ride or swimming are low-impact options that are gentle on the joints, making them perfect for older adults or those who’ve been couch potatoes for a long time.

Start with shorter durations and gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing these activities.

Strength training is another important part of any exercise plan. Building muscle strength not only improves overall fitness levels but also helps protect against conditions like heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

You don’t need heavy weights to get started. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups (start by doing them against the wall!), planks, squats, and lunges can be done at home without any fancy equipment.

Focus on working the major muscle groups and gradually increase the intensity as your strength improves.

Creating Exercise Habits and Goals

One of the best things you can do when starting a new exercise program is to set realistic and achievable fitness goals. This will help keep you motivated and give you something to work toward.

Whether it’s completing a certain number of steps in a day or increasing your workout time each week, having a goal in mind will give you a sense of accomplishment and progress.

Consider asking a fitness coach or personal trainer to help create a customized workout plan to suit your needs and goals. They can suggest realistic timelines, teach you proper form, and push you to achieve your full potential.

You can also subscribe to video streaming plans like my favorite, Daily Burn, and get done-for-you exercise programs depending on your fitness levels and interests.

Plus, having a professional by your side can make a world of difference in staying committed to your exercise routine.

Fitness trainer helping older woman with beginning exercise.

Addressing Specific Concerns

If you’re aiming to shed a few pounds, focus on exercises that elevate your heart rate and bring on the sweat. And it’s not just about weight loss; it’s about disease control and boosting your general health. It’s a one-two punch for a win-win.

As your body adapts, you can play around with workout time and types of exercise—maybe today it’s a Zumba class, tomorrow strength training with a focus on those major muscle groups.

Overcoming Common Roadblocks

Sedentary behavior can be stubborn, but sprinkle your day with movement snacks: take the stairs, do leg lifts during conference calls, or try deskercise. It’s all about turning the sedentary into the active, transforming your healthy lifestyle one step at a time.

Sore muscles and a bit of fatigue might send you a post-workout ‘thank you’ note for getting them back in the game. It’s normal. Embrace it as a sign of your body’s reawakening.

Sometimes the biggest challenge is simply finding a place and time that works for you! Either join a local gym, start a sports hobby (like running or kickboxing), or move aside the coffee table in your living room.

Or is there a space you can declutter to make room? Sometimes a spare room or basement is the perfect “home gym.”

Overweight beginning exerciser using home video on laptop.

Finally, always decide your exercise in advance. What intentional exercise will you being doing, at what time, and where will you be doing it? Example: I’ll be doing Daily Burn tomorrow at 6am in the spare bedroom.

Now you’ve got a plan. You just need to show up.

Advanced Strategies

As your confidence blooms, so will your workout regimen. Begin to gently increase your exercise intensity and amount of time. This isn’t a sprint; it’s more like a scenic hike—enjoy the journey as your fitness levels ascend.

And remember, weight training isn’t just for the young or the restless; it’s for anyone looking to fortify their temple against the wear and tear of time.

Also, it’s not just about the physical aspect of exercising. A healthy diet is equally important in supporting your fitness journey.

Fuel your body with nutritious foods and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. A balanced diet, combined with regular exercise, will help you see better results and feel more energized.

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Sample Step-by-Step Exercise Plan for Beginners

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you say. “Just give me a plan that tells me what to do.”

That’s what you want? Sure thing! Here’s a sample, beginner’s exercise plan to get you started.

It focuses on gradual progression, safety, and a balanced approach that includes cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance exercises.

A good way to remember is “Strength, Stretch, Balance, Breath.”

Week 1-4: Establishing Routine

1. Cardiovascular/Aerobic Exercise:

  • Frequency: 3 days a week
  • Activity: Brisk walking or light cycling
  • Duration: Start with 10-15 minutes per session, gradually increasing to 30 minutes.

2. Strength Training:

  • Frequency: 2 days a week, non-consecutive days
  • Exercises: Basic bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, wall push-ups, and seated rows
  • Sets and Reps: 1-2 sets of 8-12 repetitions, focusing on form.

3. Flexibility and Balance:

  • Frequency: Daily
  • Activities: Gentle yoga or stretching exercises, balancing exercises like standing on one foot.

 Week 5-8: Progression and Variety

1. Cardiovascular/Aerobic Exercise:

  • Increase duration to 35-40 minutes
  • Introduce varied terrains for walking or increase resistance for cycling.

2. Strength Training:

  • Add light dumbbells or resistance bands
  • Introduce new exercises like bicep curls, tricep extensions, and simple core exercises.

3. Flexibility and Balance:

  • Incorporate more challenging yoga poses or pilates exercises.
Fitness trainer with beginner workout plan on clipboard.

 Week 9-12: Further Challenge

1. Cardiovascular/Aerobic Exercise:

  • Introduce interval training: alternate 1 minute of faster walking or cycling with 2 minutes of moderate pace.

2. Strength Training:

  • Increase weight or resistance slightly
  • Add more complex compound movements like step-ups or bench presses.

3. Flexibility and Balance:

  • Try balance exercises that involve movement, like tai chi.

 General Tips:

  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Always start with a 5-10 minute warm-up and end with a cool-down and stretching.
  • Listen to Your Body: If something feels painful or too challenging, scale back.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet to support your exercise regimen.
  • Consistency: Aim to be consistent but flexible. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off.
  • Medical Consultation: Before starting any new exercise program, especially after a long period of inactivity, consult with a healthcare professional.

Remember, the key is to start slowly, build up gradually, and focus on consistency. Each person’s body responds differently, so it’s important to tailor the plan according to individual needs and abilities.

Takeaway: It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising!

Starting an exercise routine after years of inactivity may be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity for a positive lifestyle change. Make exercise a part of your daily life by incorporating physical activities into everyday tasks.

Doing some yard work, taking short breaks from constant sitting, and even some dynamic stretching during TV commercials can add up to significant amounts of exercise.

Listening to your body is key throughout this process. Be aware of any sore muscles and give yourself time to recover. Incorporate rest days into your routine to allow your body to heal and adapt. With time, your body will develop muscle memory, making it easier to maintain an exercise habit.

So let’s get moving! Returning to exercise isn’t easy or necessarily comfortable – BUT with small steps and a positive mindset, you can achieve great results!

Because hey, it’s never too late to prioritize physical and mental health. Embrace the journey, enjoy the process, and soon enough, you’ll be reaping the incredible health benefits that regular exercise has to offer.

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