Nutrition Expert- Saba Shaikh, Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Soon after you start exercising, you’ll begin to see and feel the benefits that physical activity can have on your body and well-being.
However, working exercise into your routine takes a lot of determination, and sticking to it in the long term requires discipline.
Regular exercise has been shown to significantly improve your health (1).
Its greatest benefits include helping you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, maintain muscle mass and reduce your risk of chronic disease (2,3).
Additionally, research has shown that exercise can lift your mood, boost your mental health, help you sleep better and even enhance your sex life (1,4).
And that’s not all, it can also help you maintain good energy levels (5).
In short, exercise is powerful and can change your life.
Common Types of Exercise
There are various types of exercise, including:
• Aerobic: Usually the core of any fitness program, it includes periods of continuous movement. Examples include swimming, running and dancing.
• Strength: Helps increase muscle power and strength. Examples include resistance training, plyometrics, weight lifting and sprinting.
• Calisthenics: Basic body movements done without gym equipment and at a medium aerobic pace. Examples include lunges, sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups.
• High-intensity interval training (HIIT): Includes repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by low-intensity exercises or rest periods.
• Boot camps: Timed-based, high-intensity circuits that combine aerobic and resistance exercises.
• Balance or stability: Strengthens muscles and improves body coordination. Examples include Pilates, tai chi poses and core-strengthening exercises.
• Flexibility: Aides muscle recovery, maintains range of motion and prevents injuries. Examples include yoga or individual muscle-stretch movements.
The activities above can be done individually or combined. The important thing is to do what suits you best and to have fun with it.
How to Get Started
It’s important to consider a few things before you start an exercise routine.
SET REALISTIC GOALS
It may take some time to get the results you want. It’s vital to break your ultimate goal down in to stages and set lots of smaller goals to keep you motivated along the way.
Results come through regular and consistent activity. Stick to your programme and avoid frequent stops and starts.
TOO MUCH TOO SOON
Do not increase the amount of exercise you do too soon. Increase what you’re doing by no more than 10% per week.
ACCEPT FEELINGS OF DISCOMFORT
When you first start exercising you’ll experience feelings of discomfort such as shortness of breath, sweating and aching muscles after exercising. Don’t worry, this is completely normal and everyone feels like this when they’re first starting out.
TRAIN WITH A FRIEND
Training with a friend not only keeps you motivated during the sessions themselves but will also make you less likely to miss a planned session as you’re unlikely to want to let down your friend.
Not warming up is a mistake many beginners make. Before any session ensure that you warm up thoroughly and mobilise the areas that you will be using during the workout. Furthermore, failure to warm up properly may increase the risk of injury.
TIME OF DAY
We are all different. Some of us rise early and some of us go to bed late. Exercise at the time when you feel that you have most energy.
Don’t give up. All beginners have set backs on the way to achieving their goals. Accept them and use them to re-motivate yourself. (6)
A Few Tips for Beginners
- Stay Hydrated
Drinking fluids throughout the day is essential for maintaining healthy hydration levels.
Replenishing fluids during exercise is important for maintaining optimal performance, especially when exercising in hot temperatures (7,8).
Moreover, hydrating after your workout can help you recover and get you ready for your next training session (9).
- Optimize Your Nutrition
Be sure to consume a balanced diet to support your fitness program.
All food groups are necessary to sustain healthy energy levels and get the most out of your workout. Carbs are particularly important, as they can fuel your muscles before exercise (10).
Carbs are also important after exercise to replenish glycogen stores and assist the absorption of amino acids into your muscles during recovery (8).
Additionally, protein improves muscle recovery after exercise, repairs tissue damage and builds muscle mass (8, 9)
Lastly, regularly consuming healthy fats has been shown to help burn body fat and preserve muscle fuel during workouts, making your energy last longer (10).
- Warm Up
It’s important to warm up before your workout. Doing so can help prevent injuries and improve your athletic performance (11, 12).
It can also improve your flexibility and help reduce soreness after your workout (12).
Simply start your workout with some aerobic exercises like arm swings, leg kicks and walking lunges.
Alternatively, you can warm up by doing easy movements of the exercise you are planning to do. For example, walk before you run.
- Cool Down
Cooling down is also important because it helps your body return to its normal state.
Taking a couple of minutes to cool down can help restore normal blood circulation and breathing patterns and even reduce the chance of muscle soreness (12, 13).
Some cool-down ideas include light walking after aerobic exercise or stretching after resistance training.
- Listen to Your Body
If you’re not used to working out every day, be mindful of your limits.
If you feel pain or discomfort while exercising, stop and rest before continuing. Pushing through the pain is not a good idea, as it can cause injuries.
Also, remember that working out harder and faster is not necessarily better.
Taking your time to progress through your fitness program can help you maintain your routine in the long term and make the most of it.
The Bottom Line
Starting a new exercise routine can be challenging. However, having real objectives can help you maintain a fitness program in the long term.
There are many different types of physical activity to choose from. Find a few that work for you and be sure to vary them occasionally.
The goal is to start slowly, build up your fitness level and let your body rest from time to time to prevent injuries.
Keeping track of your progress or joining a fitness group can help you stay motivated and achieve your goals. It’s also important to eat a healthy diet and hydrate regularly (14).