It’s now well known that exercise is ‘good for you’ – with countless research articles proving exercise helps not only with body transformation, but also with mental wellness, as well as providing numerous health benefits both now and long term. While knowing this helps, the real challenge isn’t what to do, but how to start, so read on for some top tips.

Most importantly, start your exercise with the intention of building a habit, and focus on how you feel after a workout as a measure of success. While you may have specific goals in mind when starting physical activity, by focusing on how you feel after exercise, it will reinforce your psychological need for an instant result. That feeling might be as simple as “I feel good I did it” or “I slept better that night” or eventually “My body feels better afterwards”. Do this every time you exercise and you will be creating a positive feedback cycle.

In the short term it’s really useful to make attendance your first goal, and to set it at a level you will achieve in reality. Many people want to exercise three times a week, and when they only go twice they feel they have failed. Going twice a week is actually a fantastic result for anyone who hasn’t been exercising before and should be recognised as such. Over time, this attendance goal can increase, but in the short term, make it all about what you can commit too.

Five top tips when starting

  1. Find an activity you enjoy. This might be something you have done in the past, or something you have always wanted to try, but whatever it is, if you enjoy it this will dramatically increase the likelihood of sticking with it. If you find you really don’t enjoy any physical activity, pick the thing you dislike the least.
  2. Do it with a friend. Pick a friend with an interest in similar activity and at a similar fitness level. This provides external motivation to each other, along with accountability too.
  3. Get some expert help. This might be a yoga teacher, a personal trainer or an exercise professional at your local gym to give advice and support on what to do. (And just to be clear, while online can be a great place to find useful information, it’s also full of lots of half-truths, and individuals selling snake oil.)
  4. It’s OK to stop – just focus on restarting. We all fall off the bandwagon.
  5. Quit smoking. There is really good research that shows people who start exercising and quit smoking at the same time are actually more likely to stick to both than someone who does just one of these. Plus you can use the saved money to pay for any costs of joining the gym or doing a yoga class.

Busting some myths

  • You have to workout hard to get a result. Almost any level of physical activity will get results. Intensity is something that can help certain goals, but so can duration, and so can the type of activity. Focus on doing the thing you enjoy and let intensity come in time if it’s not your thing.
  • You have to go three times a week. While exercising frequently is a good idea (the World Health Organization recommends five times a week), even going once or twice a week will still provide significant health benefits, as well as making your body feel a lot better too.
  • You have to be fit to go to the gym. Many people who go to gyms are there to improve the way they look and feel, and like everyone else, haven’t got there yet. While gyms and exercise facilities in general aren’t the only places you can do physical activity, they can provide lots of options. If you’re considering one, make sure you not only look at what it offers, but also feel comfortable with how it feels – after all, this is a place you intend to visit regularly, right?

A final reminder: your body is one of your greatest assets, and you only get one. Give your body the gift of physical activity and it will love you for it. But make sure when getting personalised advice about what’s right for you, it’s from a registered exercise professional who is not only qualified to do so, but is also bound by a professional code of conduct.

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