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Reader Question: How Do I Start an Exercise Program?

The biggest challenge may be changing your lifestyle.

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Updated March 01, 2012

"I’d like to start an exercise program, but where do I begin?"

Making the personal decision to begin exercise is the first step. Committing to make it a priority in your life is the next.

Often, the biggest challenge you will face is changing your lifestyle. Many of us have created bad habits over a the years and changing these requires a committed effort to consciously recognize and alter some of these patterns. Ultimately you need to change both your internal beliefs and your external environment to step you up for success.

It takes time to develop new habits, so a positive, forgiving attitude is essential. You will not become an athlete overnight, but by slowly changing your internal dialog and external situation, you will find a new lifestyle that encourages fitness.

Begin by checking with you doctor to ensure that you can safely exercise without restrictions. Once you have the OK, surround yourself with supportive people and role models. Having a support system is crucial in starting a workout program. Accountability and motivation are very important to success. Ask those who are active how they’ve set up their lifestyle to support activity. You will learn a lot from those who are doing what you want to do.

You might also consider several sessions with a qualified personal trainer to learn what to do to reach your fitness goals. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to stay active. Find something that works for you whether it’s bike commuting to work, walking after dinner, joining a sports league, exercise while watching tv, or training for a marathon. There are so many options and sometimes we don’t realize how life provides many opportunities to be active – we just have to recognize them.

Physical health is often the last item on the daily agenda in trying to balance, school, jobs, relationships and all of the other demands of your daily life. However, if you make physical fitness and healthy lifestyle a priority, you will find more energy and enthusiasm for the other areas of your life.

Ideally, your exercise routine should be goal oriented, especially for new exercisers. Your goal must be realistic relative to your starting point, and measurable in a way that you will see your progress.

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