How To Start Exercising: 10 Ways to Get into a Spring Exercise Regimen

Happy Spring! The crocuses and daffodils pushing their heads through the last scatterings of snow bring a burst of optimism to a cold, difficult winter in most parts of the country. Regardless of your geography, Spring is here! It’s time to get out your walking shoes, or maybe even return to the gym, to shed the excess weight you may have gained in the past year. And if you haven’t gained weight, wouldn’t it feel great to get those muscles moving again?

A small longitudinal study of fewer than 300 people suggests that during the pandemic adults gained more than half a pound every 10 days. According to Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, senior author of the research letter that was published in JAMA Network Open, said that translates to nearly two pounds a month. He added that Americans who continued their isolated habits throughout the year might have gained as much as 20 pounds.1 Wow! Whether you gained weight or are just stiff from sitting too long, your body, brain, and overall health will benefit tremendously from engaging in a regular exercise regimen.

Excess weight has an association with a greater risk of developing more severe illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and other inflammatory diseases. The good news is that during the pandemic many people ate healthier because they were cooking at home and not eating out.

The bad news is that physical activity for most of us decreased. Our lifestyles changed. We sat more, decreased our time out of the home, and unfortunately ate more out of sheer boredom.2 Experimenting with new recipes became a hobby, or a way to tamp down our anxiety and stress. And so, we gained weight. If you became a couch potato in the past year, don’t despair. Now is the perfect time to get into shape.

Why is Exercise So Important?

When your body enters a stressful state causing you to prepare to fight or run, it’s full of stress hormones. If you’re sedentary, those hormones will continue to circulate and cause damage to your body. Vigorous exercise, however, burns off those hormones. Exercise also releases the neurotransmitter serotonin and endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.

Doctors from Nottingham Trent University suggest the chemical phenylethylamine is released during exercise and could play a part in uplifting mood as a result of exercise. Phenylethylamine is a naturally produced chemical that has been linked to the regulation of physical energy, mood and attention.3 So the more you exercise the better you feel.

A large study conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that people who were fit throughout the study period proved to be almost 50 percent less likely to develop dementia than the least-fit participants.4

We’ve heard for years that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, and vice versa. Hundreds of studies have shown that regular exercise reduces risk of cardiovascular disease including every abnormal heart risk ranging from high blood lipids to inflammation and stroke.5,6 It doesn’t matter whether you walk in your neighborhood every day or go on a three-mile hike a couple times a week. The important thing is that you get up and move.

10 Ways To Start Exercising Today

how to start exercising

1. Begin at a beginner’s level. Low to moderate intensity in the beginning enhances enjoyment and helps prevent injury.

2. Get a new, comfortable pair of athletic shoes. Wear them in the house first to make sure they fit in all the right places.

3. Go for a walk! While vigorous exercise is usually recommended for heart health, a study showed that brisk walking can be just as effective as activities like biking and swimming for reducing a woman’s risk of heart attack. The 1999 study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that one-third of heart attacks in women can be prevented by regular, vigorous walking.7 Start with a few walks per week and build toward a daily routine. Walk on lunch breaks, climb the stairs, park a good walking distance from your destination or talk a walk in the mall if the weather is bad. Keep it simple, but keep at it.

4. Find a virtual class online or go your local gym. Yoga, Pilates, Barre fitness, Zumba, Les Mills Bodypump and more are available through the YMCA for free if you have Silver Sneakers. There are hundreds of other classes available online, and the gyms are opening up!

5. Regular resistance training—lifting hand-held weights or working on weight machines for 20 minutes three times a week—can maintain muscle mass, help prevent bone loss … and raise your heart rate.

6. Try something fun and new like gardening, biking or swimming.

7. Take a Tai Chi or yoga class for relaxation, balance and flexibility.

8. Work out with music. Put on your favorite dance music or dance along to YouTube dance classes.

9. Join a hiking club which is excellent exercise and socialization as well.

10. Make exercise convenient and tailor it to your needs. You don’t have to join a gym to get fit!