Exercise: The hardest part is getting started

What’s your excuse for not working out? No time? Too tired? No motivation? Whatever the reason, know this: Starting an exercise program will make the biggest difference to your health and your quality of life.

Ideally, you would pair working out with other healthy lifestyle choices like eating well and not smoking. But even if you didn’t, even if you could choose only one thing, exercising and being active would have the biggest impact on your overall health.

Dr. Steven Blair, University of South Carolina, discovered in his research study of more than 50,000 men and women that fitness is the best indicator of health. Low fitness is the strongest predictor of death. It is a stronger predictor than even high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and smoking.

The benefits of exercise have been well documented. Exercising can help you lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, sleep better, boost your energy, improve your mood, and protect you from some serious chronic diseases and conditions (high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke—even cancer).

How do I get started?

Before beginning any exercise program, you should talk to your doctor. Ask if you are healthy enough to begin exercising and if you are taking any medications that would prevent you from being more active. This is an especially important first step if you have any health problems, if you haven’t been active for a while, if you are pregnant, or if you are an older adult.

How much exercise do I need?

In general, experts recommend that adults in good health exercise 30-60 minutes five days a week. If you are just starting out, you will need to work up to this level. Do not do too much too soon. You may end up with an injury. Start with an easy activity, like walking. Slowly increase how long you exercise as well as your level of intensity.

If you don’t have time to spend a 30-minute chunk of time on exercise, consider breaking up your workout into three 10-minute sessions. Experts report that it doesn’t matter how you divide the time just as long as you put in the work.

How do I choose an exercise?

Starting out, walking may be your best choice for exercising. It doesn’t require a gym membership, you don’t need fancy equipment, and you already have an expert skill level. But as you progress with your fitness program, consider choosing an exercise that is something you like to do or something you can do as part of a team or with a friend. That will help keep you motivated and help you stay on track.