Regardless of your fitness goals, sticking to a schedule is essential for seeing results. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends healthy adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical exercise and strength train at least two days a week. For a beginner, this can be daunting, but you do not need to carve out chunks of time from your already busy schedule. A little here and there will lead to major results.
Before you lift a single weight or spend a moment on the treadmill, check in with your doctor. This is particularly true if you are overweight, smoke or have asthma, diabetes, heart, liver or kidney disease. Together with your doctor or another health care professional, you can design an exercise program that fits your needs and goals.
Your program should contain both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Cardio is the repeated movements of your arms, legs and hips which causes your heart rate to increase and your breathing to deepen. Doing this regularly keeps excess pounds at bay, strengthens your heart and lungs, reduces your risk of certain cancers and disease and helps you live longer.
Hitting the weights doesn't mean you'll pile on unnecessary bulk. For a woman, it'll help you develop strong bones, control your weight, reduce your risk of injury and boost your stamina.
As a beginner, you want to start slowly and gradually increase your time and effort. This is because you don't want to do too much too quickly and sideline your efforts because of injury or discomfort. Start with just five to 10 minutes a day, and in the first week, add a little more time so you reach 15 minutes per day. Then over the next several weeks, work your way up to 30 minutes.
People reap the same health benefits even when they break up their workout routines into sections. The most important thing is to work out for at least 10 minutes at a time at a moderate intensity and have this add up to at least 150 minutes per week. To reach 30 minutes a day, go for a quick jog in the morning, a brisk walk over lunch and a bike ride after work. Without making significant changes to your schedule, you’ll be meeting your daily goals.
Chart your progress; outline how long you work out and list the weights you use in your lifting sessions. Quickly you’ll see how much you have accomplished.
With strength training, you want to target your major muscle groups -- your legs, hips, chest, shoulders, abdomen and arms -- by lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing body-weight exercises, heavy gardening or yoga. Adding these moves to your schedule shouldn’t be a major time drain. Do them on the same day as your cardio or on different days; it’s totally up to you. Just make sure you work your muscles to the point where they reach muscle fatigue. This means you cannot do one more move while maintaining good form. A few examples of strength training exercises include situps, pushups, bicep curls, squats, lunges and triceps dips.
If your workout goal is to lose weight, then consistency is key. A study published in the “Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine” in 2005 showed that women had higher success at losing weight when they worked out for at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity. If you want to increase your chances for losing weight, bump that up to 250 minutes per week. Examples of moderate intensity activities include brisk walking, golfing, doubles tennis, horseback riding, actively playing with kids and working out on an elliptical, stair or rowing machine at a light to moderate pace.
- Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine: Exercise Duration and Intensity in a Weight-Loss Program
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effect of Short-Term Equal-Volume Resistance Training with Different Workout Frequency on Muscle Mass and Strength in Untrained Men and Women
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: General Physical Activities Defined by Level of Intensity
- Harvard Medical Publications: Sticking With Your Exercise Program
- Mayo Clinic: When to Check with Your Doctor First
- Mayo Clinic: Walking: Trim your Waistline, Improve your Health
- Mayo Clinic: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- Mayo Clinic: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.