A Beginner’s Guide to Exercise: The Essentials
We all know that exercise is essential for good health, but where does one start? Is a run better than weightlifting, and how often should you work out? In this beginner's guide to exercise, we will break down all the basics of exercise, so you can confidently start your fitness journey.
The Different Types of Exercise
Exercise increases heart rate and builds strength, endurance, and flexibility. However, different types of exercise are more beneficial than others for each of these goals.
Aerobic exercise uses oxygen, is low- to moderate-intensity, and helps to improve heart health. It lowers blood pressure, helps decrease the risk of many lifestyle-related diseases, and improves stamina and endurance. These exercises include biking, jogging, or swimming, for example.
Anaerobic exercise does not use oxygen because it’s often far more intense and requires less time. Think high-intensity interval training, weightlifting, or sprinting. It’s not as effective for improving heart health but is beneficial for building muscles and strength. It’s also an excellent exercise for fat loss.
Flexibility is essential for improving mobility and preventing injury, especially before and after exercise. Stretching also helps improve posture. These exercises are often more relaxed (yoga being a well-known example) and can also improve stress levels and overall well-being.
Where to Start
So how can you start exercising? The current U.S. guidelines recommend that individuals do at least 150-300 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity exercise, 75-150 minutes of high-intensity exercise, or a combination of both each week. This should be a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
Do something you enjoy: if you’re just starting, don’t force yourself to commit to weightlifting or running if you hate it. Find something you like, whether it be dance, Pilates, or soccer, and use it to build a routine. You’re much more likely to stick to something you enjoy, and consistency is most important.
Find friends: starting a fitness journey can feel intimidating to many, especially if you’re new to the gym. Find a friend who is willing to join you, or better yet, join a fitness class or group and make some new friends with like-minded goals!
Ask for help: we all start somewhere. If you don’t know how to use a machine at the gym, don’t be embarrassed to ask. If you don’t know the proper technique for running, find a forum online or watch some videos. Most people will be more than happy to help you, and you’ll have a more effective (and safer) workout with the proper technique.
Starting anything new can feel intimidating and scary, but once you get your feet moving, you’ll immediately notice how much better exercise can make you feel. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying everything at once – start with an aerobic, anaerobic, or stretching exercise and get comfortable with that. Then, you can slowly integrate all three types over time. Remember, there is always someone around that can answer your questions or show you how something is done. Enjoy the progress, and be proud of yourself for starting!