The Best Exercise for Beginners

It is January and the gyms are full of people whose New Year Resolution is to get healthy, fit and strong. I am talking about beginners here, people who are new to exercise. Who last time they participated in sports where in high school. Or university. People whose lifestyle does not include regular exercise or any activity that gets the heart rate up for at least 20 to 30 minutes three times a week over an extended period of time.


We have all seen people buy running shoes and workout clothes in the sports shops’ holiday sales. But we all know what happens with a lot of these good intentions. A couple of weeks or months into the New Year and all the resolutions are forgotten. Working out on a regular basis is considered too time consuming, too hard and no fun. The running shoes are collecting dust in a corner. Fitness equipment ends up under the stairs or in the garage. Gym memberships get cancelled (if possible) or become that nagging reminder that one should go, but, actually, never gets around to.

You have never run in your life, but in order to get fit and lose some weight, you suddenly decide to go running 3 mornings a week at 6 am when it is cold and dark outside? You have never been to a gym, but you decide to take spinning classes twice a week and hit the elliptical machine every other day to fit in your dream skinny jeans. Or you heard that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the best form of exercise to drop weight quickly and you sign up for a bootcamp class that meets 3 evenings a week.

The biggest problem with these strategies above is that you set yourself up for failure, unless you really enjoy the activities you pick. If you do not like running or cycling or push ups and burpees, then you will not keep up running or spinning classes or bootcamp. It is also important to make sure that the time of day you exercise actually agrees with you. If you are not a morning person, working out first thing in the morning may not be the best idea when you are just starting a routine. Try to exercise during lunch break instead. If you are too tired in the evening, try to get some exercise in before breakfast.

Studies show that for untrained individuals the type of exercise is actually not that important because they all see great results. It could be steady state exercise, or short intensive interval training or low to moderate intensity exercise. As long as you keep doing it, you will see results. If you are quickly bored, try to mix it up. Variety also challenges the body more as it keeps it guessing. It is great for the body to work different muscles, at different intensities with different movements. Maybe you like kicking the football around with your kids. Maybe you like to take up tennis lessons. And if you want to get into running, start out with walk/run intervals and pace yourself. The risk of getting an injury is much higher if you start doing too much too soon. Whatever you do, try to do it for at least 30 minutes five times a week.

A lot has been written about shortening exercise time by training at higher intensity (again, HIIT) since time constraint is the number one excuse of people not to work out. However, this only makes sense if you actually like this kind of exercise and keep doing it. If you sign up for bootcamp, but do not enjoy it and drop out after a couple of weeks and give up exercise altogether, then this is not very effective. Also, if you are fairly new to exercise, the risk for injury is much higher with this type of exercise. In addition, your recovery time may be longer, so in the end you actually have not saved yourself any time at all.

The point here is – the best exercise for beginners is the exercise that you enjoy and keep doing.

So if your New Year’s resolution is to get fit and healthy, try to find some activities you enjoy and keep it up until you have established a routine.

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