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Fitness 101: The absolute beginner's guide to working out.

How do I start an exercise program?

Also read our blog entry " 10 golden rules for fitness beginners "


You've decided it's time to start exercising and you've taken the first step towards a new and improved body and mind.

"Exercise is everything!" says Michael R. Bracko, Chair of the Committee of the American College of Sports Medicine. "Exercise can literally cure disease, as well as some forms of heart disease. Countless exercise regimens have been used to help people prevent or recover from certain forms of cancer. Fitness helps people with arthritis. Exercise helps people prevent or treat depression cancel."


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And there's no arguing that exercise can help most people lose weight as well as feel healthier.

Of course, there's a catch: you have to be moving and staying tuned to reap the benefits. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to go through a rigorous, time-consuming regimen at the gym - although there are certainly benefits to doing so. The truth, however, is quite simply that the rewards come after the work is done.

"Any increase in physical activity will improve weight loss and muscle gain," said Rita Redberg, chair of the American Heart Association's Scientific Advisory Board.

Exercise options are plentiful, including running, dancing, swimming, biking — you can do it at home, too, says Redberg. The most important thing is to choose the activity(s) you enjoy the most. This increases the chances of making the exercise session a habit.


How much exercise should you do?
In order to maintain your performance level, it is recommended to be physically active for at least 30 minutes 2 to 3 days a week. For all those who are currently not doing any sport at all, this is already associated with muscle building and weight loss. If you are in training for a little longer and want to force a further build-up, you should train 4 to 5 times a week.

"If you train less, you'll still see benefits," says Redberg. "It's not that if you don't have 30 minutes a day you shouldn't do anything. Because you'll definitely see benefits even if you exercise just 5 or 10 minutes more than you've been doing."


Ready to start?
Health and fitness experts helped us put together this beginner's guide, including definitions of some common exercises, sample workouts, and home workout equipment recommendations.

To measure the intensity of your training, you can check your heart rate or pulse during physical activity. This should be within a target range during varying intensities.

The target heart rate should be 50% to 70% of the maximum heart rate at moderate intensity.


Here we go.

The first step to any workout routine is to assess how fit you are for today's chosen workout. We all have good days and bad days. Whenever someone with a serious medical condition begins a new exercise program, they should consult a doctor first. Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 should also be examined by a doctor once a year, says Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief physiologist of the American Council on Exercise.

Regardless of the physical condition, however, you can train normally in the preferred way.

"I can't think of any medical problem that would be made worse by the right type of exercise and execution," says Dr. medical Stephanie Siegrist, orthopedic surgeon in a private practice.

After you have assessed your own fitness, you can set the training goals. For example, do you want to run a 5K run? Go to the gym five times a week? Or just walk around the block without being completely out of breath?

"Make sure the goals are clear, defined, and most importantly, realistic," says Sal Fichera, an exercise physiologist and owner of Fit5 Fitness, based in New York.

Regardless of goals and health, anyone beginning a new exercise program should exercise caution to avoid injury.

"Start slow and go slow," advises Bryant. Many beginners make the mistake of starting out too aggressively, only to give up right away when they get tired very quickly at the end of the workouts or even get injured, he says. Some become discouraged because they believe that hard training must produce results immediately.

"In general, if people train too hard too early in the program, they tend not to stick with it in the long run," says Bryant. "If you really want to develop new habits, take it slow for the first few sessions."

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fitness definitions.
Even seasoned athletes sometimes have misconceptions about what some fitness terms mean. Here are some definitions of words and phrases you are likely to encounter:

Cardio workou / cardio activity
These exercises are strenuous enough to temporarily speed up breathing and heart rate. Running, biking, walking, swimming and dancing or Zumba fall into this category.

The maximum heart rate that one should achieve while exercising depends on the age of the person. An estimate of a person's maximum age-related heart rate can be obtained by subtracting the person's age from the number 220.

Flexibility training or stretching
This type of training improves the range of motion of the joints. Age and inactivity tend to cause muscles, tendons, and ligaments to shorten over time. Contrary to popular belief, however, stretching and warming up are not synonymous. In fact, overstretching cold muscles and joints can lead to injury and overstretching.

Strength or weight training
This type of exercise aims to improve muscle strength and function. Specific exercises are performed to strengthen each muscle group. Weightlifting and training with stretchy resistance bands (such as our STRYVE fitness bands and loops) are examples of strength training, as well as bodyweight exercises such as push-ups or sit-ups, where you only train with your own bodyweight, fall into this category.

Also read our article: " Modern powerlifting - just a hype? "

Sets and Reps
These terms are usually used for the number of strength training exercises and refers to repeating the same exercise multiple times. For example, you can do 10 "reps" on the bench press, rest for a few moments, and then do another "set" of 10 more reps .

warm up
The process of preparing your body for exercise and the stress of exertion. The body can be warmed up with light movements such as cycling slowly or rowing on the rowing machine.
The movements increase blood flow, which warms muscles and joints.

"Think of it as a lubricant for the body," explains Bryant. At the end of your "warm-up" it's a good idea to do a little easy stretching.

cooling down
This is the less strenuous phase to cool the body down after the more intense part of the workout. For example, after a run on a treadmill, you might run for a few minutes at a reduced speed and incline until your breathing and heart rate slow down. Stretching is often part of a cool down period.

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Example training for beginners

Before you start your fitness program, it's important to warm up and then do some light stretching. Save most of the stretch for post-workout when your muscles are warm.

Once you're warmed up, experts recommend three different types of exercise for overall physical fitness: cardiovascular activity, strength conditioning, and flexibility training. These don't all have to be done at the same time or in one training session, but regularly training all areas leads to a balanced fitness.

Cardiovascular Activity / Cardo
Start with cardio, such as cycling or treadmill running, four to five times a week for 20 to 30 minutes, says Bryant. To make sure you're at an optimal level, try the "Speaking Test": Make sure you could hold a conversation without trying too hard. However, if you can easily sing a song, you are not working hard enough.

force conditioning
Begin with a series of exercises that target each of the major muscle groups. Bryant suggests using a weight that allows you to perform the exercise eight to 12 times in one set. If you think you can train with more weight, gradually increase either the weight, the number of repetitions, or the number of sets.

To maximize benefits, you should strength train at least twice a week but never train the same body part/muscle two days in a row to allow them to rest and grow.

flexibility training
The American College of Exercise recommends doing slow, sustained static stretches three to seven days a week. Each exercise should last 10 to 30 seconds.

To learn how to perform specific exercises, consider hiring a personal trainer for a session or two, or take advantage of the classes available at the gym .


home workout equipment

Fitness training does not always have to be done in the gym. You can train comfortably from home and achieve goals with your own body weight such as squats, lunges, push-ups and sit-ups. Of course, you can also invest in your own equipment to increase your strength and endurance.


Popular exercises at home:

treadmill
This piece of equipment is great for cardiovascular exercise, says Bracko. He recommends running at low intensity for 30 minutes and doing the talk test. Adjust the intensity, incline and/or time to suit your needs.

Free Weights
Barbells and dumbbells are particularly popular in the strength equipment category. Dumbbells are recommended for beginners. Fichera recommends buying an (adjustable) dumbbell set that can be adjusted in increments.

Other strength equipment
These include kettlebells and flexible bands. Fichera says that resistance bands in particular are good for beginners, especially since they come with instructions.

exercise ball
If you enjoy exercising with an exercise ball, it can make for a good workout. To further improve form, Bracko suggests training in front of a mirror if possible, or have someone else watch you and give you tips. The exercise ball is otherwise very versatile and extremely suitable for training at home.
(Check out our unique STRYVE Ball now.)