The Complete Beginner's Guide to Working Out: EVERYTHING You Need to Know
Updated: May 20, 2021
How often do I have to train? How long should my workouts be? What type of exercise should I be doing?
These are all frequently asked questions, especially for beginners at the gym. When it comes to starting your fitness journey, it can be a bit overwhelming. With the overabundance of misinformation that has plagued the fitness industry, it’s hard to figure out how to approach your workout regiment. This article is meant to give you some insight on how you should ACTUALLY start your fitness journey. Hint: there is no one-size-fits-all!
How often do you need to workout? You may be under the impression that in order to see results, you need to go to the gym everyday. Don’t be fooled! Training everyday can actually negatively impact your health by leading to injuries, fatigue, and burnout, causing you to abandon your fitness program altogether. In fact, taking rest days every week is a great way to allow your muscles to recover, reduce your risk for injury, and promote sustainability in your fitness routine.
When you’re beginning your fitness journey, slow and steady wins the race. Pick three to four days of the week that you’re able to put time aside to workout and gradually increase the duration and intensity of any new exercise routine.
If you’re looking for a specific amount of hours you should be exercising each week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity as well as two muscle-strengthening activities each week. Ensuring that you’re hitting these guidelines is a great way to keep your health in check; of course, if you go beyond these recommendations, you'll gain even more health benefits. However, if you’re just starting out and are not yet able to reach this benchmark, don’t worry! We all have to start somewhere.
150 minutes of activity each week may sound like a lot of time, but if you spread it out over the course of a week, that is just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week! The good news is that you can even break up this time into smaller chunks of time during the day, such as going for a brisk ten minute walk three times a day. Many people believe that the only way to see results is to spend hours on the treadmill. Thankfully, this is not true at all: your workouts DO NOT need to be hours long to be effective. It’s all about finding a SUSTAINABLE and BALANCED exercise regimen that works for you.
When it comes to the TYPE of exercise, keep in mind that there is no single type of exercise that can take care of all your needs: you want to have a mix of activities during the course of a week. It is best to do a combination of aerobic, strengthening, flexibility, and balance exercises for a well-rounded exercise plan.
Aerobic activity is any type of cardiovascular conditioning and includes a wide variety of activities, from walking to swimming to cycling: anything that gets your heart beating faster. Often referred to as “cardio”, these activities are great for burning calories and strengthening your heart and lungs. Incorporating a consistent cardio routine into your week can also lower the risk for many diseases and lead to a longer life.
Strength or resistance training just means doing activities that make your muscles work harder than usual, and typically include equipment such as weights, resistance bands, or weight machines. Examples of strength exercises include squats, push-ups, or pull-ups. These exercises protect against bone loss and build muscle, improving your body’s lean muscle mass to fat ratio.
Flexibility exercises cause your muscles to be longer and more flexible, which are important for increasing your range of motion, reducing pain, maintaining stability, and reducing the risk of injury. Aim to incorporate flexibility exercises such as stationary stretches, yoga, or pilates after your workouts or three times per week.
As we age, our sense of balance typically worsens. In older adults, this could lead to falls, causing disabling injuries to the bones and/or nervous system. Thankfully, we can train our balance to prevent and even reverse these losses. Some typical balance exercises are standing on one foot or slowly walking from heel to toe while balance-enhancing activities include tai chi, yoga, and pilates.
This may seem like a lot of information to digest, but in time, this will all become second-nature to you. As you start to build confidence during your workouts, you'll establish a routine that keeps you motivated, happy, and healthy.
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