How to establish a fitness routine you can stick to

By Naveed Saleh MD, MS
Published September 29, 2020

Key Takeaways

Few things have more health benefits than exercise. Regular exercise can ward off chronic disease, help control weight, improve sleep, boost self-esteem, and enhance balance/coordination. 

Your exercise journey should begin with an assessment of baseline fitness—much like a physician establishes baseline vitals and labs for a new patient. This baseline can shape strategy and serve as a foundation for later comparison. Baseline fitness measures include pulse rate before/after walking 1 mile, maximum number of modified or standard push-ups, , flexibility, waist circumference above the pelvis, BMI, and length of time it takes to walk 1 mile or run 1.5 miles.

Once you establish a baseline, use these five tips to stick to your exercise routine.

Develop a plan

Every good exercise regimen requires a specific plan.

Some vital aspects of a successful exercise blueprint include the following:

  • Set fitness goals. Possibilities include weight loss, muscle hypertrophy, or cardiovascular endurance.

  • Create a balanced routine that spreads the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise over the course of week. It’s also possible to mix moderate and high-interval intensity exercise. Remember that even short bursts of exercise throughout the day can be helpful. For instance, try walking to work or using the treadmill while binging on your favorite show.

  • Strength training for major muscle groups should be done twice a week, with adequate resistance to tire muscles at 12-15 reps.

  • As when writing prescriptions, start low and go slow. Don’t risk injury or excess fatigue by going all-out in the beginning. As you move further along, establish a pace that will not tire you out within 5 or 10 minutes. In the case of preexisting injury or medical condition, consider enlisting the help of an exercise therapist to develop a routine with sufficient levels of motion, strength, and endurance

  • Mix up your routine to keep things interesting and avoid overuse of a specific joint or muscle. Try walking, swimming, and strength training at different times. Other cool exercise ideas include hiking and ballroom dancing. If you decide to walk, maintain a brisk pace if possible. A good rule of thumb is to walk as though you are late to a meeting (or rounds). 

  • Allow adequate recovery time between sessions to avoid soreness and injury. Take between 24 and 48 hours of rest between exercising the same muscle groups.

  • As with any formal agreement, put your plan into writing and commit.

Proper equipment

Due to social distancing requirements, if financially feasible, it may be a good idea to equip your home with a stationary bike, treadmill, medicine ball, exercise bands, kettlebells and so forth. You may, however, want to try this equipment at the gym first. Keep in mind that it’s best to buy equipment that you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy the equipment, you may not use it, and it will end up gathering dust.

Furthermore, invest in proper athletic footwear. Importantly, running shoes are lighter, whereas cross-training shoes are more supportive.

Fortunately, fitness apps on smart devices can be remarkable aids in your exercise journey. They track distance, heart rate, flights climbed, steps, stride length, and more.

Monitoring progress

It’s important to reassess personal fitness every 6 weeks to begin with,Over time, you may find that you are exercising exactly the right amount to meet your fitness goals. Otherwise, you may need to devote more time to exercise to continue improving.  

Minimize sedentary activity

By decreasing idle time spent in front of the television, computer, or smart device, you free up more time for an exercise regimen. As mentioned earlier, you can exercise while binge watching your favorite shower, but if you don’t do this, set a timer so that once an hour, you stand and walk a few minutes.

Social support

One way to keep exercise fun is to do it with a friend. Another involves signing up for exercise classes—whether they be in-person or online. You can also enlist social support in the form of a trainer. In a post-pandemic world, it may be a good idea to meet with a certified trainer virtually to help guide your exercise routine and monitor progress.

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter