It might sound annoyingly optimistic from the comforts of your couch, but it’s never too late to start working out.
Here are eight steps to help you get started.
1. Learn just how in shape you are
You probably have some idea of what kind of physical shape you’re in – and yes, round is a shape. But in order to find out where you’re truly at, you should record your baseline fitness scores in certain exercises, such as:
- Your pulse rate before and after you walk 1 mile (1.6 kilometers)
- How long it takes you to walk 1 mile
- How many push-ups you can do at a time
- How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you
- Your waist circumference as measured around your bare abdomen just above your hipbone
2. Talk with your doctor
If this is all new to you, it may be a surprise to you what you’re capable of. It will definitely be a surprise to your body when you start testing it. That’s why it is a good idea to consult a doctor. They will be able to point you in a reasonable direction of meeting your goals.
If you are a man over 45, a woman over 55 or have major concerns, it is crucial to do this. Don’t let endorphins push you into an irreversible state.
3. Choose a goal
There are a million different workout programs, depending on what you want to achieve. Maybe you just want to lose weight. Maybe it’s fighting off heart disease and diabetes. Maybe you want to enter a bodybuilding competition. Maybe you want to fit into those jeans from high school again.
Whatever it is, having a goal will help you focus your mind toward losing the weight. To help with this, add step goals to your workout, so you can see progress. And think about what you want to be – do you want to be thinner? Stronger? What’s your goal?
4. Pick a time that works for you
This may sound like a minor detail, but to make a workout become a natural part of your life, it helps to start by making it as convenient as possible. Once you’ve got it locked in, start building your schedule around it. Don’t make it something you can reschedule easily – that’s the first step to skipping it.
5. Choose a balanced routine
Unless you have a specific goal you’re aiming for (and even then, it’s a good idea to keep some balance), start a routine that lets you work on the three main areas: cardio, strength and flexibility.
Cardio: Start out simply with walking or running. Do this for half an hour, five times a week. Try to stay on a level where you could carry a basic conversation, but definitely couldn’t carry a tune.
Strength: Start doing 4 to 8 different exercises twice a week, making sure to work out different muscle groups. And don’t go for weight—it’s better to lift lighter and maintain the right form.
Flexibility: You’ll be surprised how much improving your flexibility can help you across the board. Every day of the week (or whatever you can fit in) do slow, sustained stretches for 10 to 30 seconds.
6. Start small
When that first burst of endorphins kicks in, it’s tempting to go all-out and try to keep going past your limits. That can be a double-edged sword, though. The goal is to get into the habit of working out, not to do intensive workouts – at least not at first. As you progress, you can start building your routine.
7. Allow time for recovery
That time in the zone might feel great, but if you push it too far, you’ll end up scrambling your routine for days. Give your body time between sessions to recover – even if you’re craving that endorphin rush. You may not be able to exercise tomorrow, but you’ll be able to exercise in the long run – especially for strength training.
Don’t work out the same muscle group two days in a row—the muscles are literally ripping as you strengthen them. Let them heal.
8. Choose something you like
This might be the most important thing on the list. If you hate working out, you’ll come up with every excuse not to, which snowballs into not meeting your goals. Start with something you like, and as you get in better shape, it’ll be easier for you to expand into other things.
Don’t like the gym? No problem! Swimming, dancing, walking or hiking all count as exercises!