7 Tips to Get You Exercising Consistently

You may know the health benefits but need help getting started

Two women workout by stretching.

You may know the health benefits but need help getting started

Chances are you know that regular physical exercise is good for you. You may even be able to name a handful of benefits. These may include weight loss or maintenance, a healthier heart and lungs, stronger bones, increased energy and a more positive outlook.

If you’re an older adult, you may know that regular exercise can be especially beneficial. This is especially true for people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis or heart disease.

You may know all this but still struggle being consistent with exercise and need additional motivation.

“For many people, that’s the hard part,” says James Italiano, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Oceanside. “It can be a challenge to find time to fit exercise into a busy schedule and, even if you do have time, you may be too tired at the end of a busy day to even think about working out.”

Fortunately, once you get started, you may find it becomes something you look forward to doing. As the benefits of exercise become evident, you may even be left wondering how you ever managed without regular workouts. These benefits include better physical and mental health, increased happiness, and a general feeling of contentment.

Tips for consistent exercise

If you are a beginner to exercise, or attempting to re-establish a regular routine, these suggestions can help you.

1. Do what you like to do

“It sounds so simple, yet many people force themselves to do activities they don’t like because they think they should,” says Dr. Italiano. “If you don’t enjoy working out on the treadmill or bike in the gym, try running or bike riding outdoors.”

If group exercise classes are not motivating, try an elliptical trainer or recumbent bike. Rediscover your love of swimming. Explore a new hiking trail. When your workouts involve things you like to do, you’ll be more likely to stick with them. 

“Don’t completely write off activities you think you don’t enjoy,” Dr. Italiano adds. “Swimmers who loathe laps in a chlorinated pool may love being in the water at La Jolla Cove. You may find walking on the beach is more enjoyable than the treadmill.”

2. Track your workouts

Using fitness trackers and apps, or even just keeping a journal, can help you stay accountable and motivated. Seeing your progress and your ability to keep active will give you a sense of accomplishment and an emotional boost. Announcing your plans to your partner or social group, online or off will help you stick to your goals.

If you’re alone, post your workouts on social media to motivate others. If they give you positive feedback, this will give you a boost for your next session. Additionally, seeing their achievements will provide motivation. Many activities have virtual challenges, such as a virtual bike ride or run.

Many apps that offer guided workouts and routines are available, both paid and free.

3. Put it on your calendar

Set aside time for workouts just as you would for a meeting or lunch date. This makes it more difficult to use “not having enough time” as an excuse. It also reduces the chances of other things interfering.

4. Fit in mini-workouts

If the idea of taking a full hour or even 30 minutes for exercise seems too much, you can still reap the same rewards by breaking up the activity into smaller parts over the course of the day.

5. Recruit a partner

Working out with a friend or loved one can make your sessions more enjoyable. You’ll be less likely to skip your workout when you know someone else is waiting for you.

If you have children, play tag, hopscotch or another active game, or turn on some music and dance together.

6. Mix it up

Like anything else, the same workout day after day can bore you. Explore a new running or biking route. Walk on the beach instead of the sidewalk. If you belong to a gym, try an exercise class that you’ve never done before.

Keeping boredom at bay is one of the benefits of different types of exercise. Additionally, these types of exercise challenge muscles that are not usually used, giving a rest to the ones that are.

7. Don’t overdo it

“Weekend warriors” know that too much of a good thing can leave them exhausted, sore, and even injured.

How much is too much? That depends on the individual. Listen to your body. It will tell you when you need to slow down or take a day or two off.

Warning signs can include:

  • Not performing at your usual level
  • Feeling unusually sore or tired after exercise
  • Strained muscles
  • A higher-than-usual morning heart rate
  • Frequent colds or the flu
  • Fatigue

“If you experience signs of over-exercising, heed your body’s advice and take a break,” says Dr. Italiano.

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