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Tips for starting an exercise program

Congratulations on your decision to start exercising! Making that decision is the first step to a healthier you.

Before beginning any physical activity program, it is important to check with your general practitioner to make sure you do not have any conditions that would prevent you completing certain activities.

Some things to consider so that you find the exercise enjoyable and therefore a long-term lifestyle change include:

  • What are your fitness goals? Is it weight loss, improve fitness, tone up, prevent illness or some other reason?

  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be going to a gym or lifting weights but could include bike riding, hiking, swimming in the ocean, dancing around the living room – whatever is going to get you moving and keep you motivated.

  • Start slowly. You can’t expect to run a marathon on day 1 if you haven’t even walked for longer than 10 minutes in the past year! Be kind to yourself and let give yourself time to improve.

  • Monitor your progress. Assess your progress six weeks after you start your program (by measuring the same parameters you did before beginning the program) and then every eight to twelve weeks. Make sure you continue to alter and change your program (intensity, time, type of exercise) so that it is continuing to challenge you. Noting the progress allows you to celebrate your successes.

  • Build your activity into your daily routine. Schedule it in as you would any other appointment or task so that it does not always get put off.

  • Include variety in your exercise program. By choosing a few different types of exercise/activity you will avoid boredom. Keeping motivation up will keep you moving for longer.

  • Allow recovery and let your body rest. If you feel too tired, then maybe you need a rest day. Listen to your body.

  • Ensure you have a healthy diet. Exercising is only one part of the equation. The correct foods will fuel your body and give you the energy you need to complete your activity.

  • Write it down! A written plan can motivate you to stay on track and ensure you know where you are headed.

  • Make sure you choose the correct clothing, shoes and equipment for the activity you are performing. Pick shoes designed for the specific activity you have in mind as well as your foot type. Choose comfortable clothing that makes you feel good.

  • Enlist a friend to join you. There is power in numbers! On the days you don’t feel like going, knowing your friend is waiting gets you there (most of the time!).

  • If you start to lose motivation, set new goals or try a new activity.

The Physical Activity Guidelines advise:

    • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.

    • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75   to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.

    • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Most importantly remember to have fun and enjoy the activity you choose to do. Good luck on your exercise journey!

Example Weekly Exercise Program for a Beginner

Day 1 – 30-minute walk

Day 2 – 20 minutes of intervals on a stationary bike followed by 30 minutes of body weight exercises (push-ups on knees, tricep dips, squats, lunges, chest press with some cans or water bottle in each hand, plank or sit-ups)

Day 3 – 30-minute walk up hills

Day 4 – Pilates or Yoga (at a studio or at home in your lounge room)

Day 5 – 20 minutes of intervals on a stationary bike followed by 30 minutes of body weight exercises (as above)

Day 6 – 30-minute swim in the ocean

Day 7 – Rest day or 30-minute walk

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