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The Beginner’s Guide to Exercise: 7 Tips to Get You Started

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A new year means a new opportunity to do the things you always wanted. Whether it’s starting to save money or getting fit, taking the first step isn’t always easy.

“If you’re thinking about adding exercise into your daily life, first—congratulations,” says Linda Trainor, RN, BSN, who works in the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). “Deciding to be more active is an incredible first step toward better health.”

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Set goals. Start with one, simple goal that can be met within a week or two. For example, if you haven’t exercised in a while, your goal might be to walk for 10 minutes a day, five days a week. Then you might decide to walk for 30 minutes, five days a week. And a long-term goal might be to complete a 5K walk.

2. Keep a journal. Are you hoping to lose weight? Boost your energy? Write down your goals and refer to them often. Record what you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and how many times you worked out during the week. “This way you can look back and see your progress,” says Trainor.

3. Keep at it. Starting out too intense can lead to burnout or injury. “I tell my patients that it’s more important to focus on being consistent. Even if you’re not 100 percent in the mood, do one small thing to move yourself forward every day,” Trainor says. “This is how you form habits for a lifetime.”

4. Don’t skip warming up and cooling down. Gentle stretching before and after a workout helps prevent injury and can help alleviate soreness. “This is important for all athletes, regardless of your fitness level,” Trainor says. “Stretching helps your muscles repair and recover.”

5. Make it fun. Find activities that you enjoy so you’re more likely to stick to it. “That could be a dance class or walking your dog in the park,” Trainor says. “Ask friends and family to join. You may even inspire them to make similar changes.”

6. Try not to compare. While you’re building up your support system, try not to compare yourself to others who may be further along in their fitness journey than you. “Remember, the goal is progress, not perfection,” Trainor says.

7. Realize there will be setbacks. Setbacks or slip-ups are normal. “An extra snooze, a skipped workout – this will happen,” Trainor says. “I advise my patients to not let one slip-up be an excuse for a larger setback. Just pick yourself up and keep going.”

And here are some simple things you can do to get started:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk up and down the sidelines while watching your kids play sports.
  • Take a walk during a break at work.
  • Ride a stationary bike.
  • Keep small weights near you and do some lifting exercises while watching TV.

“Remember every expert was once a beginner,” Trainor says. So, set those goals and get moving!

For more information on exercise and weight loss, visit bidmc.org.