Every January, gyms and sports centres are full of people who have resolved to take more exercise and learn how to work out. By mid-February, many have given up before seeing any real benefits. Even among those who persevere for long enough to see some improvement in their overall, many are exercising less regularly or have given up completely by the time the New Year comes around again.
Most people do not stop exercising because they lack will-power. They stop because they did not choose the right form of exercise for them or because they set themselves over-ambitious targets and then became disillusioned and demotivated when they were unable to reach them. Partly as a consequence of this, only around 40 per cent of people in most Western countries take sufficient exercise to enjoy the numerous life-time benefits that long-term physical activity has to offer.
There are many factors to take into account when wanting to know how to work out and designing an exercise programme. You need to assess your body type and general fitness before you begin, so that you can choose the right level of activity. Your choice of activity is also affected by what you hope to achieve from your exercise programme. Many people begin exercising because they want to improve their body’s appearance or overcome long-term health problems; others may want to relax, socialize or compete.
You also need to think about which form of exercise you most enjoy, your budget and how best to integrate exercise into your daily routine. It also helps to choose a good fitness facility, a trainer you feel comfortable with or the most suitable piece of home exercise equipment.
At various stages of life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy, and later life – exercise needs change and exercise routines should be adapted accordingly. What is important is that physical activity is maintained throughout life.
Exercise can be beneficial as a therapy to promote recovery from a range of health problems, such as arthritis, heart complaints and diabetes. A physiotherapist or qualified personal trainer can devise and monitor a programme that meets individual needs.
Once you have chosen a new exercise regime, start gently, then gradually increase the pace. Individuals who try to progress too quickly, neglect to rest between workouts, and do not warm up and cool down risk incurring. People who exercise consistently and set realistic goals are more likely to avoid the set-backs caused by over-exercise and training injuries, and to achieve their long-term aims.
Be prepared to try out several kinds of sport to learn how to work out, and in order to give yourself the best chance of finding an activity that suits your needs.