It's never too late to get started with a fitness program, no matter how overweight you may be, as long as you take smart steps to build the ideal workout plan. Even a little increase in activity goes a long way toward improving your heart and metabolism, among other things. Start slow and progress consistently to craft a workout program that will be effective and enjoyable to maintain.
Before starting any workout program, consult your physician. Be fully aware of your limitations before jumping into a routine. As badly as you may want to change, jumping from a sedentary lifestyle to an intense program, such as P90X or Insanity, will do you more harm than good. Your doctor will tell you how ambitious you can be. If, at any point during a workout, you feel pain or light-headed, stop immediately. The point of getting fit is to be healthier for the rest of your life. If you pursue a program that works you too hard, you are less likely to stay faithful and the weight will come back.
In general, aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. If you have weak knees, consider aerobics in a swimming pool or on an elliptical. If you are too self-conscious to go to the gym, follow a beginner cardio video program in your home that takes between 20 and 30 minutes three to four times a week. Hate staying in one place for an entire workout? Try hiking or just walking your dog around the neighborhood. For best results, pick up a pair of dumbbells and add one or two strength-training sessions a week as well, for a maximum of 45 minutes each.
Working Toward a Goal
Motivation is everything when it comes to weight loss, and picking a goal -- such as running a half-marathon -- gives you something to work toward. Beginners can run a half-marathon in as little as six months if they start slowly and keep adding exercise every week. Start by walking briskly 20 minutes a day for three to five days. Add five minutes every week until you are walking 60 minutes three to five times a week.
Ramping Up to Interval Training
As soon as you have 60 minutes in the bag, start adding 30-second runs every three minutes. This is referred to as interval training, which is far more effective for weight loss than consistent moderate activity. High-intensity interval training can be very demanding, but adding even little spurts of intense activity into your training after you have mastered moderate activity will bring big results. As you feel stronger, add more running time onto your interval spurts, 15 seconds at a time. Reduce your recovery walks from three minutes down to 30 seconds by 15-second changes as well, until you are able to run for three minutes at a time before taking one-minute breaks. You will now be fit enough to start training for a half-marathon.
The Importance of Diet
No workout program is complete without a complementary diet program. One of the biggest mistakes people can make is overeating after working out. Keep a healthy eating plan so you are fueling your body with nutritious food. Don't undo all your hard work by eating too much or too little.
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.