How to start working out

Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your health. 

Easy to say, hard to do. I know. 

But if you do, it brings a transformation change in your health, body, and overall life. 

From losing weight to having more energy, exercise can add to its achievement (1, 2). 

Regards to health specifically, Michael R. Bracko, chairman of the ACSM put it perfectly. "Exercise is the magic pill that can literally cure diseases including some heart diseases."

It's bold, but not entirely overstated. 

Exercise has helped countless people prevent and recover from certain types of cancer, arthritis, and other diseases (3, 4, 5).

According to the International Journal of Epidemiology which studied mortality of nearly 1 million people, 30 minutes of daily moderate intensity actively reduces the risk of early death by 19%. Taking up a notch, 7 hours per week of moderate activity can reduce the mortality risk by 24% (6). 

This clearly shows just how a little bit of exercise can improve your health significantly and add years to your life (7).

Mental and emotional health is also no stranger to exercise benefits (8). 

It's scientifically evidenced that exercise can prevent and reverse depression, which over 3.3 million American adults suffer today (9).

The health benefits of exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore.  

Regardless of your age, sex or physical ability, you can benefit from exercise.

Here is a list of known and proven exercise benefits according to

Exercise benefits

  • Weight Loss
  • Weight Management
  • Muscle Mass Development and Preservation
  • Lower Risk of Chronic Diseases
  • Better Mood
  • Better Focus
  • Better Mental Health 
  • Depression Prevention and Recovery 
  • Better Sleep Quality 
  • Enhanced Sex Life

Whether your goal is to improve your health, recover from depression, or simply get a hot rocking body, making time for workouts and exercise is truly one of the best things you can do for yourself. 

Now, most assume the hard part is in persisting since it takes amounts of determination, willpower, and discipline to keep at it.

But the real first barrier to exercising is actually the starting part. 

Not knowing how to exercise brings a tremendous amount of anxiety and unease. So much so that it can prevent people from starting. 

If that's you, don't let that stop you from starting. 

We designed this Complete Beginner's Guide to Exercise specifically for you to help you get started and start experiencing exercise benefits in your life. 

Now, results come when you keep at it, but it does not mean you must follow a strict, long regimen at the gym -although it can certainly be beneficial if you do. 

The truth is you can get rewards from many different types and levels of exercise.

Rita Redberg of American Heart Association assures "any little increment of physical activity is going to be a great boost to weight loss and feeling better." 

In fact, exercise does not have to be done in the gym with dumbbells. 

You can walk, dance, garden, bike, swim, do yoga and/or hit the gym. Here are some of the most common exercise types you can easily incorporate into your life. 

The Common Types of Exercise

There are various types of exercise, but two main types are cardio and resistance training



Cardio also know as aerobic exercise is any of type of exercise that raises your heart rate—Usually cardio is the core of any fitness program. A period of continuous movement is your cardio work. 

If you think it's too broad. Well, that's because cardio points to a really wide range of activities which includes everything from swimming, running, biking, bodyweight calisthenics such as jumping jacks, high knees, and to dancing. Even walking up the stairs can be cardio if you do it for an extended period of time. 

When you do cardio exercises regularly, it decreases your blood pressure and resting heart rate. This means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard all the time.

This is a good thing for your entire body. You can learn more about the benefits of cardiovascular exercises here, and how it can improve your overall quality of life.

Resistance Training

Resistance training exercises

Resistance Training is a type of exercise that includes training methods like weight training, strength training, and muscle strengthening. Resistance training collectively helps to increase lean body mass and build strength by making your muscles work against force and resistance (10). 

Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resisting force when they are required to do so. As a result, when you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger and your body becomes leaner. 

The Physical Activity Guidelines for healthy adult Americans recommends that adults do muscle-strengthening activities at least two to three days per week (11).

There are several popular ways to apply resistance in your training:

  • free weights
  • weight machines
  • resistance bands 
  • own body weight

Regardless of how you go about adding resistance to your workouts, the common goal is to work your muscles to strengthen them. 

Best Exercise Program 

A well-rounded exercise program should include both strength training and aerobic activities as both offer different benefits. 

Strength training improves joint functions, bone density, muscles, tendons and ligament strength, while aerobic exercise helps improve your heart health, lung fitness, flexibility, and balance (12).

Beginners are recommended to train 2 to 3 times per week to gain the maximum benefits (13). 

Thanks to many exercise program creators in the fitness industry, there are countless programs already have both cardio and resistance training built in.

You may recognize many of them. You may even have tried a few yourself in the past. 

Cardio & Resistance Training

Calisthenics exercise programs: Calisthenics are basically weight-free exercises. They are also known as body weight exercises which require no gym or exercise equipment and performed at a medium aerobic pace. Examples include jumping jacks, lunges, sit-ups, planks, push-ups, and pull-ups.

They are extremely beginner friendly and adaptive to various fitness levels. Performing 30 minutes a day of bodyweight workouts can help you get the benefits of both cardio and strength training. 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT): This exercise program includes repetitions of short bursts of high-intensity exercises followed by low-intensity exercises or rest periods. The 7-Minute Workout Challenge and Tabata Training are two great examples of HIIT workout. We did a detailed post on HITT training, you can learn more about it here. HIIT tends to gear towards more experienced exercisers as it's on a faster tempo. 

Boot camps: Timed high-intensity circuits that combine aerobic and resistance exercises. Perfect for those who are interested in workouts for weight loss. 

Balance and stability training: This type of training strengthens muscles and improves body coordination. Examples include stability ball exercises, some yoga poses, and core-strengthening exercises.

Flexibility: Aids muscle recovery, maintains range of motion and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Examples include static, dynamic stretching, yoga or individual muscle-stretch movements. If getting your body moving again is your goal, start here to work on your flexibility and prepare your body for a more elevated activity later on. 

The activities above can be done independently or together. The important thing is to find a fitness program that best suits your needs and goal.

I've learned over time that choosing an exercise plan is also about your personality, likes, and dislikes too. 

I feel an enormous satisfaction out of going through a fast tempo HIIT. I can hit both cardio and resistance training doing it and get a good sweat in 30 minutes. 

I love it. 

Some may enjoy a longer stretch of flexibility and muscle-stretch movements by practicing Yoga moves. 

Also, it's about lifestyle choices too. 

Working out at home? Bodyweight workouts and strength training with resistance bands offer convenience as they require no additional equipment other than light-weight bands. 

The takeway: You can do a variety of different types of exercise to get in shape. Find what works for you and mix and match workouts to really create a complete plan for your needs and goal. 

How to Get Started

Now that you know there is cardio and strength training, and there are different programs out there that you can explore. 

Here is a quick guide to how to take your first step and prep yourself for staring an exercise program. 

1. Consult with your doctor

Consult your doctor

The first step to any exercise program is to consult with your doctor and get a physical examination before you begin.

Whenever you begin an exercise program, it's wise to consult a health care professional. "This is particularly important especially if you are not used to strenuous physical activities, and if you are a male over the age of 45 for male or female over the age of 55. ", says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.

An early checkup can detect any health problems or conditions that could put you at risk of injuries during exercise.

The professional examination and physical analysis can also help communicate any limitations you may have to your fitness trainer and further customize your plan to meet your particular needs and goal.

Even with medical conditions, with careful planning, many are able to workout and actually get helped by exercise. So don't be afraid to discuss your fitness goals and your conditions to health and fitness professionals. 

Stephanie Siegrist, MD in N.Y. comments "I can't think of any medical issue that would get worse from the right kind of exercise." 

2. Set realistic goals

Another component to exercise success is to have a plan with attainable steps and goals.

The key here is to have easy steps to follow towards your realistic goal. If you need to, break down your goal and process. 

If your goal is to run a 5 km marathon, set a goal to run 1 km or walk 5km. Once that's accomplished, start running 2 km.  

The idea is to start at your pace and slowly work up to the ultimate goal you have for yourself. (I love this beginner's guide to running 5k from

After all, no one will accomplish running a 5 km without conquering 2, 3, and 4km. No one has lost 25 pounds without losing 5 pounds first. 

Start with an immediate goal in mind, and make that your milestone and motivation. Most importantly create many victories in your life to drive yourself to a bigger success and achievement. 

3. Make it your lifestyle

Make exercise part of your life

Sticking to your routine is also another key factor in your success. 

Keeping at it for the long term is made a lot easier when exercise becomes a habit and part of your daily routine (14).

Studies concluded that replacing an unhealthy behavior with a new healthy habit is a great approach to maintaining it in the long term (14).

One great way to develop a habit is to make a schedule. Set an alarm clock 30 minutes earlier than usual, make that your workout time, and never switch back your alarm. Do one thing that'll help you make exercise a staple in your life. 

The takeaway: Before you start working out, check with your doctor and make a plan with realistic goals. Then, make exercise a habit by incorporating it into your daily routine.

How often should you exercise?

How often should you exercise?

If you are thinking, how much exercise you really have to improve yourself, then you are asking a good question. 

The right exercise volume depends on what your fitness and health goals are. I know that doesn't help you whole a lot, so here is the general guide. 

Per 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking and full-body muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week (15). 

This means your strength training workouts need to target all major muscle groups including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. 

How you reach 150 minutes a week of cardio is up to you according to their guideline. 

For example, 150 minutes a week of exercise can be reached with 5 separate 30-minute sessions or 50 minutes for 3 times a week. They are equally beneficial according to studies. 

Although the target is to fulfill the recommended workout volume, taking it slow and gradually increasing the intensity as your fitness level improves is vital to your success. Be sure to align your workout intensity to your current fitness level and not overtrain your body. 

Lastly, allowing your body to rest is also essential to your overall exercise success. 

Take a proper rest to prevent exercise stress related injuries such as muscle strains and fractures. 

Overtraining also puts strains on your immune system and heightens your risk of infection, chronic tiredness, and hormonal imbalances (16, 17 18).

Takeaway: The recommended exercise volume a week is 150 minutes, but align your session length and frequency to your fitness level and allow an ample recovery time to avoid overtraining and prevent injuries.

7-Day Workout Plan for Beginners

7-day workout plan for beginners

Now, all professional advice we introduced in this post is nothing short of a great help, but to put all into one program can still be a heavy load of work.

To make it easier on you, we created a sample 7-day workout Plan for Beginners that includes cardio, flexibility exercises, and resistance training; all forms of exercises recommended by health experts. 

It's a beginner's workout plan that does not require any exercise equipment and will only take about 25-45 minutes a day to complete.

This workout plan can be adjusted to your fitness level and made as challenging as you want.

Before we start, let's go over some exercise terms and what they mean.

Exercise Terms

Repetitions (reps): refers to the number of times you continuously repeat an exercise in a single setting called set. 

Sets: Set is a group of repetitions performed without resting. For example, 15 reps of squat for 2 sets mean you do 15 squats without taking a break. This is a set. Take a rest and do another round (set) of 15 squats. Now you completed 2 sets. 

Intensity:  Exercise intensity is how hard you are exercising. This term is most often used to describe the aerobic activity. Faster tempo leads to high intensity. Slower movements mean lower intensity.

Rest: Rest is taken between sets. Rest periods vary depending on the intensity of exercise and depending on the exercise program, rest may only be taken as needed or after a round of several exercises. 

Now that we went over the terms, let's get to the workout. 

Workout Schedule:

Monday:  Flexibility + Cardio 

20-30 minute moderate pace jog or brisk walk if you can't run. 

Tuesday: Strength training circuit workout (bodyweight)

Walk briskly for 10-15 minutes to warm up, then, complete the following circuits.

Circuit #1: 3 sets alternating 10 lunges for each leg, 10 push-ups, 30 seconds plank

Rest: 1 minute after each set but not between exercises.

Circuit #2: 3 sets alternating 10 jumping jacks, 10 air-squats, 10 chair-dips

Stretch at the end. 

Wednesday: Flexibility + Cardio

20-30 minute moderate pace jog, swimming, biking or brisk walk if you can't run.

Thursday: Strength training circuit workout (bodyweight)

Walk briskly for 10-15 minutes to warm up, then, complete the following circuits.

Circuit #1: 3 sets alternating 10 lunges for each leg, 10 push-ups, 30 seconds plank.

Rest: 1 minute after each set but not between exercises.

Circuit #2: 3 sets alternating 10 jumping jacks, 10 air-squats, 10 chair-dips

Stretch at the end. 

Friday: Flexibility + Cardio

20-30-minute swimming, bike ride or moderate-pace jog.

Saturday: Foam rolling and stretching. 

This will be your muscle recovery day. Foam rolling reduces soreness and prevents tightness.

Sunday: Rest Day 

This 1-week workout plan is provided solely to help you get started. There are more plans, ideas, and exercise selections available for your use below. Please feel free to browse and incorporate some into your weekly plan. 


Bodyweight workouts

Free-Weights & Band Resistance:

Workout plans targeting specific body parts and for various skill levels.

Abs + Core Workouts:

Back Workouts for Beginners: 

Legs & Butt Workouts:

Cardio Workouts:

Body Type Specific Workouts:

Here are a few tips to get more out of your workout efforts. 

1. Stay Hydrated

Stay hydrated during exercise

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

According to Joe Dowdell, CSCS, the right amount of water consumption per day for everyone is different. For your appropriate amount, he suggests you multiply your weight in pounds by 0.5 to 0.7.

If you drink anywhere near that amont now, aim that in the 4-week span. 

If you plan on working out outside in hot summer months, be sure to take extra water with you as hydration becomes more essential, even critical for your performance under the heat(19, 20).

Hydration is also not just about during your workout. It's just as important to keep yourself hydrated post-workout too for faster and proper recovery (21, 22). 

My favorite drink for hydration is coconut water. It is full of natural electrolytes, so it's perfect for rehydrating during workouts.

2. Proper nutrition

Proper nutrition

The best way to ensure your exercise program success is to keep your diet clean. It not only supports your overall health but also fastens your muscle recovery and proper progression. 

The key here is to eat a well-balanced diet. All macros (carbs, protein, and fats) are needed for sustained energy and optimal performance. 

Carbs provide fuel to your body pre-workout, while they work to replenish glycogen stores and assist the absorption of amino acids into your muscles post-workout (23) (24).

Protein also has an essential role in workouts and recovery.

Protein is used to protect your muscles from breaking down during exercise, repair tissue damage, and build muscle mass. It also promotes muscle recovery after your workout. 

Although high-protein diet is over popularized in the modern society, over consumption leads to excess calories in the same way carbs and fats do. Be sure to check out this post on how much protein to eat based on your weight, height, gender, and age.

Fats have been a hot debate in the past decade, but we are finally coming out of the low-fat diet era, thanks to the more concentrated focus on healthy balanced meals in the diet community. Healthy fats are not only part of a balanced meal, they are essential in fat burn but also in the preservation of muscle fuel for sustained energy throughout your workout. 

We'll cover pre-workout and post-workout nutrition in a future article.

3. Warm up


The benefits of warming up your body before the main workout get overlooked too often, but they are critical for your muscle health and injury prevention. 

Just as properly warmed up body can lead your athletic performance to a peak level, unstretched and under-prepared body can put strains on your pefroamnce and body. Take 5-10 minutes before your workout to prep your body for the workload ahead. 

It does everything from warming up your core temperature to improving flexibility and range of motion. It can also aid in post-workout recovery and reduced muscle soreness. 

If you are not sure where to start, simply incorporate some aerobic exercises like jump jacks, high knees, and inchworm. 

Alternatively, you can warm up by doing easy movements of the exercises you are planning to do. For example, walk to warm up before you run or perform in-place lunges before dumbells lunges. 

4. Cool down

Cooling down is another important aspect of the workout as it helps your body return to its normal state.

After exercising, your heart is still beating faster than normal, your body temperature is higher.

Spending the last 5 to 10 of minutes of the workout for cool-down aids in restoring your normal blood circulation and restating the breathing patterns. It even reduces the chance of muscle soreness.

Cool-down ideas can be anything from a light walking after aerobic exercise to stretching after resistance training. The idea is to bring your body back to it's pre-exercise state. 

5. Pay attention to your body

Just because hard work is required to reach your goal doesn't mean you should be performing beyond your capacity from the beginning. I've seen many begin training hard and quit completely a week later.

If you’re not used to working out, be mindful of your limits and build your pace rather than attempting to accomplish all in a short span. 

It's good to remember that working out harder and faster is not necessarily better.

Instead take it slow, and focus on maintaining your routine in the long run. Consistency is truly the key here. 

Also, if you when you feel any pain or discomfort while exercising, stop and rest before continuing. Pushing through the pain is not a good idea, as it can cause injuries. 

Know your limits. Work on your pace and build your routine and consistency.

6. Staying motivated

Find a way to stay motivated. Whether that is keeping your workout fun, switching your routines around, or setting a prize for reaching your goal, find something that'll keep you motivated throughout your journey.

Like the sample exercise program shown above, you can easily mix up activities if you feel repetition makes you stagnant.

Other ways to keep your exercise fun is to join a gym or group fitness class like yoga and Pilates. Changing scenarios and keeping yourself challenged is a great way to stay motivated.

You can also work out with a friend for more accountability.

Another way to boost your commitment level is to track your progress. What you track is not the most important here. You can log your run time, distance, or even weight lifted. Anything that helps you track your progress to not only see how far you have to go but more importantly how far you've come is a motivational factor. 

It's the distance between where you started and where you are now that can really encourage you to move forward each day.

The Takeaway

Starting a new exercise routine can be challenging. However, having real objectives can help you maintain a fitness program and stay motivated in the long term.

There are many different types of physical activity to choose from. Find the ones that work for you and be sure to change up occasionally to avoid boredom.

The goal is to start slowly, build up your fitness level, and give your body adequate rest time for proper recovery and injury prevention. 

Keeping an exercise journal to track your progress or joining a fitness group can help you stay motivated to reach your goals. It’s also important to eat a healthy diet and hydrate regularly.

Download our free complete beginner's exercise guide to get started TODAY.

So, what are you waiting for? Start exercising today!


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