OH-Blog Logo
Closeup of feet walking on a treadmill

How to Start an Exercise Program in 5 Steps

2019: The year you continuously hit the snooze button and missed your morning run. (Don’t be ashamed; we’ve been there.)

You know an exercise program is vital for overall wellness and especially weight loss, but sometimes life gets in the way and it can be difficult and confusing to know where to start again. Michael Hyek, PhD, senior director, McConnell Heart Health Center, shares tips to help you not only begin an exercise program — but keep at it:

Woman talking to doctor

1. Check Your Health.

To prevent injury or other complications, it is essential to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. Hyek says, “this is especially important if you haven’t been physically active for an extended period of time.” It can also make it easier for you to understand your limitations and help you create an exercise plan tailored to your particular needs.


Two people wearing helmets riding bicycles outside

2. Be creative.

“You don’t need to hire a trainer or join a gym to be successful,” Hyek says. You can be active and stay motivated without spending a lot of money or buying expensive equipment. Choose a fitness program in an environment that suits your lifestyle and preferences. Whether it’s running on a treadmill, walking in the mall or biking in your neighborhood, you can be more physically active in many different ways while keeping it fun for you. Try turning up some tunes in your living room and dancing around or play kickball in the backyard with the kids.


Person writing in workout plan journal

3. Make a plan.

“When people ask which exercise should I do, the best answer is the one you feel you can stick with,” Hyek says. To increase your chances of success and consistency, create a plan that works for you and start with smaller goals. For instance, aim to get moving at least three times per week, Hyek says. The general recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine is to participate in moderate-intensity exercise for 150 minutes total each week, shaped any way you want. This recommendation equates to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Exercise time can be broken down into smaller increments as well. Three brisk 10-minute walks each day add up!


Person lifting a weight with help from another person

4. Change up your routine.

If you’ve been working out consistently, but results have slowed, it’s time to switch up either your intensity, the duration of your exercise, your workout environment, the number of days a week you exercise, or the type of activity you do, Hyek says. It could be as simple as adding one additional workout per week, adding a few extra minutes to each workout, or find a workout partner who can help keep both of you accountable.


People high-fiving during exercise at a gym

5. Push through obstacles.

Everyone gets busy or has a week of indulging too much, but a few setbacks shouldn’t keep you from picking up where you left off. Whether it’s an injury or a hectic holiday season, return to your exercise routine as soon as you can, and allow yourself to ease back into your normal pace to avoid injury and reshape your health. Fitness apps can also help by providing motivating feedback that keeps you on task or send reminders about your need to exercise. Find what works for you.


Once you’ve started your exercise program, use our fitness tips to create variation in your exercise routine!