You began with good intentions. Maybe you wanted to lose some weight, or maybe you simply wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. Whatever your reasons, you started an exercise program—but you got off track and stopped.
It happens to just about everyone. Sticking with a workout routine can be a daunting challenge. Restarting one can be, too. But keeping some fitness tips in mind and knowing how to ease into exercise, especially if you’ve been a little sedentary for a while, can help get your body back into your old workout routine.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise is beneficial to everyone regardless of age or physical ability. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise helps you live a longer and healthier life by:
- Helping control your weight. Burning calories through exercise helps you lose weight and maintain weight loss over time.
- Boosting your mood. Getting up and moving around stimulates the release of certain chemicals inside your brain that boost your mood and help you feel more relaxed.
- Preventing certain diseases and medical conditions. Regular exercise lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and can manage or even prevent other diseases and medical conditions, such as diabetes, depression, arthritis, and some types of cancer.
- Improving your energy levels. By improving muscle strength and endurance, regular exercise helps your heart and lungs work better, which gives you more energy to get through your day.
- Increasing your chances of living longer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are active for at least seven hours each week are 40 percent less likely to die early compared with people who are only active for thirty minutes or fewer each week.
How to Ease into Exercise
Current recommendations say you should try to be physically active for at least 150 minutes each week, or a little over twenty minutes every day. Maybe your old workout routine helped you hit this target, but it’s important to keep in mind that you may not be able to jump right back into that routine if you’ve taken an extended break.
Again, this is perfectly normal. As you get back into exercising, keep in mind that it may take you some time to return to the level of fitness you once enjoyed. Everyone has to start somewhere—if you’ve been inactive, try to set a realistic goal for how much exercise you can safely do in one day. Maybe it’s only ten minutes at a time, but something is better than nothing.
Starting your workout routine slowly and building up your performance over time is the best way to prevent injuries and help keep you motivated to work out. Because everyone is different, it’s hard to predict just how long it’ll take before you return to your previous fitness level. Gradually increasing the amount of time spent working out or the intensity of your exercise is a proven method of getting back in shape.
Keep These Fitness Tips in Mind
Regardless of the type of exercise you enjoy, there are some general fitness tips that can help you prevent injuries, such as muscle strains, and keep your workout routine on track. One great way to do your body a huge favor is by warming up and cooling down before and after each exercise session.
Warming up before exercise helps your blood vessels dilate, which provides your muscles with extra oxygen and raises their temperature, leading to greater flexibility and performance. There are many ways to approach warming up, including:
- Stretching to help get your muscles warm and increase your flexibility
- Performing your chosen fitness activity at a slower pace or lower intensity level for five to ten minutes
- Combining low-intensity aerobic and strength exercises to warm up your entire body
Cooling down is just as important. Your heart rate and body temperature are both elevated after you exercise; cooling down helps your body gradually return to its baseline.
When cooling down, try stretching to help reduce the buildup of lactic acid, which can lead to muscle cramps. Hold each stretch for ten to thirty seconds, switching sides after you perform each stretch. Stretching shouldn’t be painful, but your stretches should be strong enough to be felt. To help your heart rate return to normal, take a short, easy walk to help your cardiovascular system wind down.
It can be difficult to ease back into exercise, but keeping these simple fitness tips in mind will make the process easier. Because there are so many health benefits to exercising regularly, it’s important to start and gradually increase your workouts to help achieve your maximum fitness level. Before you know it, you’ll be able to exercise like you did before.