Take a self-evaluation and see a doctor if necessary1 of 6
Before you eagerly head to the nearest gym, it's important to make sure you don't have any underlying conditions that could be triggered by exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends completing the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, which is available online. The survey asks about symptoms like chest pain and dizziness. If you have a history of these, see your doctor before working out.
Set realistic goals2 of 6
As a newbie on the exercise scene, don't expect too much too soon.
"The biggest mistake I see people make when starting a new fitness program is thinking that more is better," says Joshua Carter, personal trainer and owner of a Fit Body Boot Camp in West Hills, California. "That working out seven times per week—after not having worked out at all in years or even decades—will get them the results they desperately want even faster. That is simply not the case."
For healthy adults, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times a week. These workouts are hard enough to make you sweat but don't leave you completely out of breath. If you're short on time, you can kick up your effort a notch and do 20 minutes of more strenuous exercise three times a week.
Any activity that gets your heart pumping—like running, biking, swimming and dancing—counts toward the requirement. Experts also recommend muscle-strengthening exercises—like light weight lifting or resistance band training—twice a week. Jot down your fitness plan and schedule certain days and times for exercise. Decide whether you want to work out with a friend or personal trainer.
Choose a fitness program wisely3 of 6
Explore different options and avoid jumping on the latest fitness bandwagon without researching it first. For example, if your goal is to eventually run a 5K, you want a fitness plan built around running.
"Be sure to choose something with a proven track record of results," Carter says. "Of course you also need to choose something you actually like. If you don't like it, you won't continue."
Listen to your body4 of 6
To reduce your risk of injury, make sure you have the proper gear and footwear for your activity. If you are going for a jog, wear running shoes that are in good condition and fit properly, and dress appropriately for the conditions outside.
Stretch and warm up before each workout, and stay hydrated and well-nourished in the hours before you exercise. When you get moving, pay attention to your body. Dizziness, pain in your chest, neck or back, nausea, or severe pain in your joints are signs to stop and contact your doctor.
Embrace variety5 of 6
Don't be afraid to try new activities to keep your workouts fresh. When sweating it out on the treadmill gets stale, switch to light weight-lifting the next day or try a dance class.
Even when you're not in the gym, you can incorporate exercise into your day. Skip the elevator and take the stairs or park your car a few blocks from your destination and walk. All these activities help boost your overall fitness.