What activities do you enjoy?
Next, think about the types of physical activities you enjoy most. After all, a fitness program doesn't need to be boring. You're more likely to keep up with a fitness program you enjoy.
If you love riding your bicycle, consider a cycling class. If you have a blast on the dance floor, an aerobics class that includes dance moves would be a good choice. If you're a social person, a gym or health club membership may be a good option for you. If you prefer to exercise alone or you find health clubs intimidating, fitness videos and exercises you can do at home may be best for you.
How can you add variety to your workout?
Aerobic activities should generally be a large part of your workout, but you also want to include muscle-strengthening activities such as working with weights or resistance bands. Cross-training, which involves doing a variety of different exercises or activities, is a good way to keep from getting bored by your exercises. Cross-training also reduces the risk of injuring or overusing one specific muscle or joint.
When you plan your fitness program, consider alternating among activities that emphasize different parts of your body — walking, swimming and strength training, for example.
What can you afford?
Make sure your fitness choices are in line with your budget. If a gym membership or home exercise equipment is too pricey, consider cheaper options for getting in shape.
You can base a fitness program around brisk daily walks and inexpensive hand-held free weights or resistance tubing. Some recreation departments may offer discounted fitness classes to local residents, and some schools or hotels may open their pools to the public for inexpensive lap swimming. You might also consider buying used exercise equipment or sharing the cost with a friend.
Ready, set, go
You've thought through your likes and dislikes and the pros and cons of various types of fitness programs. Now it's time to get moving. Start slowly and build up intensity gradually. Even shorter spurts of exercise, such as 10 minutes of walking spaced throughout the day, can offer benefits.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends:
- Aerobic activity. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out the exercise during the week.
- Strength training. Incorporate strength training exercises of all the major muscle groups into your fitness routine at least twice a week. A single set of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise with the proper weight can be effective for most people.
Remember, each workout puts you one step closer to reaching your fitness goals. If you get bored or lose interest in your fitness program, don't be afraid to try something new. Reassess your fitness level and set new fitness goals. The result? A future of improved fitness and better health.
Oct. 17, 2015
See more In-depth
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/PAGUIDELINES/guidelines/default.aspx. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- The adult fitness test. President's Challenge Program. https://www.adultfitnesstest.org/adultFitnessTestLanding.php. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- Tips to help you get active. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/tips-help-get-active/Pages/tips-help-you-get-active.aspx. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- Exercise and physical activity: Getting fit for life. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-and-physical-activity. Accessed Oct. 1, 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. Aerobic exercise: Strategies for change. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. Strength training: Strategies for change. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
- Pescatello LS, et al., eds. Exercise prescription for healthy populations with special considerations and environmental considerations. In: ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 5, 2015.