If you’re wondering how to start exercising, you’re not alone. In the midst of the winter blues, it can be a struggle to get out of a sedentary rut, even when we know we desperately need to start moving. While you may want to start exercising, it can be hard to know where to begin. 

Physical activity helps reduce your risk for many chronic issues, helps improve your sleep habits, and even aids your mental health. Learn how to start and which activity is the most simple yet effective for feeling better and getting in shape.

How to start exercising

Contrary to what social media and popular culture would have you believe, you don’t have to spend hours in the gym every day or force yourself to do painful activities that aren’t fun. The great thing about exercise is that a little goes a long way. Adding modest amounts of exercise to your weekly routine can greatly impact your mental well-being. According to a recent study, working out on the weekends is just as effective for your health as working out daily, as long as you’re getting the same amount of recommended exercise. The daily physical activity recommendation for adults is 30 minutes, but if you cycle or go on a hike for 2-3 hours on a Saturday, you’re still getting what you need.

Keep it safe

If you haven’t attempted strenuous physical activity for a long time, it’s best to keep the following health precautions in mind:

  • Talk to your doctor before starting
  • Warm up with dynamic stretches for a few minutes before you begin exercising 
  • Take a few minutes to cool down after you’re done
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Listen to your body and rest if things become painful
  • Write it down and monitor your progress

Start small and make it fun

There are valid reasons why exercise seems out of reach. Perhaps you can’t budget for a gym membership right now or your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily exercise class. It’s good to remember that you’re more likely to exercise when the activity you choose is something you enjoy. Going on a walk with the dog every day and getting some quiet time to yourself might be just what you need to feel better.

For others, feeling better could mean joining a sports team, swimming laps, building something in the garage, or maintaining a lovely garden. Trying out martial arts, ice skating, rollerblading around the park, or even taking a dance class might be what motivates you to keep going.

Try it for two minutes

Most of the time, people get discouraged because they expect too much from themselves. Rather than exercising for 30 minutes, some people feel discouraged when they get tired after only a few minutes. Yet two minutes are still better than doing nothing. Motivation author and speaker James Clear states that focusing on finding a way to get started in two minutes rather than worrying about the entire workout helps people build motivation. Once you start going, you’re more likely to keep going. Two minutes can become ten minutes, and that can become twenty minutes.

Make it social, make it mindful

Exercise can be much more fun when you get to see friends or family. Taking a dance class with girlfriends or meeting a friend once a week to go on a hike are great ways to stay motivated and get encouragement. Getting the whole family involved by going on walks, dancing to music in the kitchen while cleaning, or doing outdoor activities like kayaking at the lake are all ways to make exercise social.

Pay attention to your body and really focus on how your body feels. Concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing and the way your feet connect with the earth. Flex different muscles from the bottom of your body all the way to the top. These are all ways to help you let go of worries and focus on the amazing things your body does for you daily. Simply telling your body how grateful you are and acknowledging all the incredible things it does for you can help you stay motivated to keep walking, dancing, and adventuring.