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tips for starting a new exercise routine

Tips for Starting a New Exercise Routine

by Paige Gibbens, PT, DPTLeave a Comment

Physical activity has been shown to improve health and wellbeing, specifically by reducing the risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

In fact, the benefits of exercise are abundant – going beyond the ability to reduce risk for chronic health conditions. Research shows that a regular exercise program can help control weight control, improve moods, increase energy levels, as well as improve sleep and social interactions. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week for most adults, including strength training exercises twice a week. However, up to 300 minutes of moderate exercise may be required for weight loss.

Exercise comes in many forms – from walking and weight lifting to swimming and biking. The list of “things” to do for exercise is endless. Each individual is different and has different goals and needs. Finding the type of exercise that you enjoy and works best for you is the key to successfully instilling exercise as a habit in your life. Here are seven tips for anyone looking to begin a new exercise routine.

Tip #1: Positive Attitude

Making the decision to start exercising can be difficult. Starting a new exercise routine requires a plan, goals and a program to achieve goals. Enjoyment is the key to forming exercise routines into habits. If you hate running, find a different type of aerobic activity that you enjoy. If you hate running, find a different type of aerobic activity that you enjoy – like Zumba. Enjoying the exercise you are choosing to participate in helps to improve compliance and continued success in building a positive experience with exercising for the first time. Self-affirmations have been proven to improve an experience, so tell yourself, “I can and I will.”

Tip #2: Medical Approval

Prior to beginning a new exercise routine, make an appointment with your primary care physician or physical therapist to talk about increasing your activity levels. Obtaining medical clearance from a physician prior to beginning a new exercise routine is an important safety step, specifically for those with current or past health conditions. Your medical team can provide you with safe parameters to follow since exercise restrictions and recommendations are different for everyone. Ensuring an individualized program and self-safety are important to reduce risk of injury or illness.2

Tip #3:  Set Goals

What is your “why?” when it comes to the choice to start exercising? Everyone has a reason for making a lifestyle change. However, 65 percent of individuals who make the decision to begin a new exercise program stop after three to six months.3 Setting goals helps with understanding your why and forming a habit. A plan is needed to safely implement a new exercise routine. When setting goals, follow these five rules:3

  1. Specific – make your goals specific. This will help you better obtain your goals without excuses or loop holes.
  2. Measurable – make your goals measurable. Without the ability to measure the goal, you will not be able to determine if you attained the goal.
  3. Attainable – make your goals are challenging, but realistic. You want to be able to achieve your goals, then set new ones.
  4. Relevant – make your goals relevant to your life, setting them toward something you are looking to improve.
  5. Timely – set a timeline for your goals. Research shows there is less likelihood of success if there is not a set time frame.

Goals help drive a change, without realistic and attainable goals, we work toward nothing. Having a picture to work toward is another step forward in creating a lifestyle change and forming a habit. 

Tip #4: Make a Plan

There are two important pieces when creating a plan, scheduling your workouts and planning what to do during your workouts. Schedule your workouts into your weekly planner and make sure to stick to it. This will help with compliance of an exercise program. Life can get the best of us, but making time for your health will only help improve your performance at work and home.

Numerous cost effective resources exist today to provide people with tools for their toolbox of exercise programs. Generally, an exercise program should include aerobic activity and resistance training to maximize all of the health benefits physical activity has to offer. 

Tip #5: Warm Up

Performing a dynamic warm up prior to beginning exercise is essential for preventing injuries. A dynamic warm up consists of active movements to warm up the muscles that will be utilized during exercise. Consider making these six exercises a staple in your warm up routine:

  1. Five-minute walk
  2. Jumping jacks
  3. Arm circles
  4. Squats
  5. Hip Hinges 

Making sure all of the muscles of the body are warm helps to prevent injury during exercise and maximize movement and performance. 

Tip #6: Cool Down

Letting your heart rate decrease to a normal resting level after your workout is important for health and safety. A cool down can consist of, but is not limited to, static stretching, deep breathing and mindfulness. Static stretching is important for mobility. Stretch all major muscle groups, holding the stretch for approximately 30 seconds after completion of your exercise. Deep breathing and mindfulness can also help to reduce heart rate and muscle tension. 

Tip #7: Seek Professional Assistance

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Starting a new exercise routine can be scary when you don’t know what to do. A personal trainer or exercise physiologist can help create a routine that is specific to your goals and provide instruction on what to do and how to do it safely. Personal trainers can offer advice on specific exercise routines and nutrition to help achieve your goals.


When starting a new exercise routine, listen to your body. Muscle soreness is normal after trying a new form of exercise, but pain is not. If you notice aches and pains after beginning a new exercise program, contact Athletico for a free assessment. Our team will assess your pain and provide recommendations for a treatment plan.

Schedule a Free Assessment

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Barnes, Patricia & Schoenborn, Charlotte. (2012). Trends in adults receiving a recommendation for exercise or other physical activity from a physician or other health professional. NCHS data brief. 86. 1-8.
2. “7 Great Reasons Why Exercise Matters.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 May 2019,
3. “How to Start Working Out.” The New York Times, The New York Times,
4. Tucker, Alexa. “9 Steps to Take If You Want to Start Working Out for the First Time.” SELF,
5. “5 Steps to Start a Fitness Program.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Oct. 2019,
6. Healthy people 2020 framework . (n.d.). United States Department of Health and Human Services.
7. “Physical Activity Prevents Chronic Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Apr. 2019,

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About the Author:
Paige Gibbens is a physical therapist specializing in lower extremity treatments and is certified in dry needling and Graston. She is also the Missouri & Southern Illinois regional coordinator for Athletico's Endurance Program.

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