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 drudgery. 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 bet. If you're a social person, a gym or health club membership may be the ticket. If you prefer to exercise alone or you find health clubs intimidating, exercises you can do at home may be best.
How can you add variety to your workout?
Aerobic activities should be the biggest chunk of your workout, but you also want to include muscle-strengthening activities such as working with weights or resistance bands. Cross-training, which is doing a variety of different exercises or activities, is a good way to keep exercise boredom at bay. 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 weights or resistance bands. Many recreation departments offer discounted fitness classes to local residents, and many schools 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 physical. Start slowly and build up intensity gradually.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends:
- Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You also can do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week.
- Strength training. Do strength training exercises at least twice a week. No specific amount of time for each strength training session is included in the guidelines.
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.
Jan. 12, 2013
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 Sept. 27, 2012.
- The adult fitness test. President's Challenge Program. http://www.adultfitnesstest.org/adultFitnessTestLanding.aspx. Accessed Sept. 27, 2012.
- Teixeira PJ, et al. Mediators of weight loss and weight loss maintenance in middle-aged women. Obesity. 2010;18:725.
- Tips to help you get more active. Weight-control Information Network. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/tips.htm. Accessed Sept. 27, 2012.
- Exercise and activity: Getting fit for life. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-and-physical-activity-getting-fit-life. Accessed Oct. 2, 2012.
- Rohren CH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 2, 2012.
- Thompson WR, et al. ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2010:18.