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10 fitness tips for beginners

Some beginner-friendly ideas for those looking to live a healthier lifestyle

A woman is running in the street. She is in front of a great metallic wall that shines with the sunlight of the sunset. There is copy space.

If you’ve decided to make fitness a part of your life, first things first — congratulations! That decision is the first step toward living a healthier life, and reaping the many benefits of regular physical activity, including a reduced risk of various diseases, greater strength (which can prevent injuries brought on by aging), improved mental health, and better overall well-being.

Once you decide to get fit, though, that’s where things can get a little confusing. You might not know where or how to get started — not to mention that building a fitness habit can feel unfamiliar or even weird at first.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but don’t let those feelings stop you. We’ve got a few fitness tips to help you get going. (Oh, and for eligible Haven Term policyholders, we have a bonus: A no-cost subscription to the Aaptiv fitness app, via the Haven Life Plus bonus rider, a suite of no- and low-cost services that can help policyholders while they’re still living. Nice, right?)

In this article:

1. Start small

So you consider yourself a beginner. But it turns out, there’s a lot of ways a person can be a beginner. Maybe you exercised, or even played a sport, in high school and/or college, but have fallen off now that you’re in the workforce (and maybe even have a marriage, a mortgage, kids, etc.). It happens.

Or maybe you really are a beginner in the truest sense of the word. That is, you haven’t exercised since playing tag during recess in elementary school, or since a gym teacher made you “run” laps in high school. That’s okay, too. The important thing is you’re here, and you’re eager to keep moving.

In fact, it might even help if you think of exercise as “recess” for grown-ups — a dedicated time where you take a break from work and/or family to run around and maybe eleven be a little goofy or playful, if that’s your thing.

In any case, just because the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, that doesn’t mean you need to meet that number right away. You don’t need to, nor should you, lift the heaviest weights you can pick up off the rack or attempt to run an entire 5K on your first day of a new exercise routine.

Avoid the temptation to push yourself too hard right from the start. Otherwise, you risk getting injured or burning out, issues that could derail your efforts and dampen your motivation.

Instead, start small and go slow. Listen to your body and give it time to adjust to your new fitness routine. Eventually, you can add more time or intensity to your workouts.

2. Incorporate movement into your daily life

Humans spend a lot of time sitting these days. Whether it’s seated behind a desk at work, stuck behind the wheel of a car during the daily commute, or lounging on the sofa watching TV, we move a lot less than our ancient forebears did. And all of that sitting can be harmful to our physical and mental health.

Even if you plan to start jogging in the mornings or hitting the gym after work, you should find ways to incorporate more movement into your daily life. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, for example.

If it’s feasible, walk or ride your bike to work. Set reminders to get up and move periodically throughout the day. Walk around your home while you’re on the phone, or make your next 1:1 meeting a walk-and-talk. Small adjustments like these can add up over time.

3. Set smaller, specific goals

There’s nothing wrong with having big fitness goals. Maybe you want to be able to run or bike a set distance. Perhaps you want to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your general health and wellness. However, those goals might feel hard to reach when you’re only starting to learn how to get fit.

Instead of one big end goal, give yourself smaller, specific goals to achieve during your fitness journey. These smaller goals give you more easily attainable wins, which can help you build confidence and motivate you to keep going.

One move you can steal from personal finance and business management gurus is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Financial experts recommend them for people looking to save more or get out of debt, but you can also apply them to getting fit. S.M.A.R.T. goals should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-Related.

So for example, “building strength” is an admirable goal, but it’s not S.M.A.R.T. goal. Instead, try something like “Do ten push-ups three times a week for a month, then move up to 15.” That goal is specific, measurable, realistic and time-related. Oh, and it’s assignable — because it’s assigned to you.

4. Schedule your active time

If you lead a busy life (and you almost certainly do), making time to exercise can feel almost impossible. Scheduling your workouts as you would any other appointment can make it easier to stay on track. Block out a set time to hit the gym, attend a fitness class, or go for a walk.

Add these “appointments” to your calendar, too. Writing them down makes them more visible and could lessen the likelihood that you forget about them. Your calendar’s reminder function can also help you start planning your time for movement — when you get a one-hour reminder, for example, that could be your prompt to change into something you can wear while getting sweaty.

5. Find a fitness routine you enjoy

No matter how committed you are to getting fit, it’s harder to stick to something you don’t like doing. Believe it or not, exercise can be fun. And when you’re having fun with your workouts, it’s a lot easier to look forward to and enjoy them.

Not sure what forms of physical activity are best for you? There are countless exercise ideas to choose from.

These include walking, jogging, cycling, strength training, yoga, tai chi, Zumba, and more. Like dancing? Try putting on a playlist and dancing for 20 minutes, two or three times a week. Try a few different workouts to see what clicks with you.

One way to discover a workout program you’re likely to enjoy (and stick to!) is to use a fitness app. As we mentioned above, eligible Haven Term policyholders enjoy a no-cost subscription to Aaptiv through the Haven Life Plus bonus rider.

The app asks you a few questions and personalizes your exercise recommendations to fit your needs and goals. You can choose from thousands of audio-based workouts led by world-class certified trainers based on duration, music, and more. There are even meditation apps and apps that will help you sleep better (an often-overlooked part of fitness).

6. Make it social

Don’t go it alone. Invite a friend to work out with you. Involve your family and get everyone more active. Find a group of like-minded individuals on their own paths to health and wellness.

While you could technically work out by yourself (and many people do), there are benefits to exercising with others. Research shows that having a fitness friend can motivate you, provide positive reinforcement, and keep you accountable, and you can do the same for them.

Don’t have someone to join you in person? Fitness apps like Aaptiv allow you to connect with others digitally, giving you access to a supportive community that can help you stay motivated, achieve your goals, and celebrate your victories.

7. Incentivize yourself

Remember sticker charts? If you have kids, you might have used these charts (or might currently use them) to help them learn good habits like making their beds or keeping their rooms clean. After earning a set number of stickers, the kids earn a reward.

Guess what? Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy earning rewards.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated, try incentivizing yourself. Let’s say you might treat yourself to a new set of workout clothes after exercising for a month. The reward doesn’t necessarily need to be fitness-related. Whether it’s the latest release from your favorite author, a cute outfit, or a trip to your local comic book shop, consider what reward would work best for you.

8. Track your progress

Keep an exercise log. Track the distance you ran or cycled or the weights you lifted. Take weekly pictures of yourself (take some before you officially get started, too).

By tracking your progress, you can see how far you’ve come. It can also motivate you to improve your personal records.

You don’t need to be an Excel wizard (or a devoted journal-keeper) to do this, either. Fitness trackers, smartwatches, even your phone can do much of the work for you, and most of it’s automated. If anything, the hardest part might be sorting through the haystack of information to find the useful needle of knowledge you truly need.

9. Fuel your body properly

Physical activity is only one aspect of getting fit and improving your overall health and wellness. A healthy, well-balanced diet is another. Properly fueling your body with a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats is vital for sustaining your energy level and getting the most out of your workouts.

Consider consulting with a nutritionist or using a food tracker app like Cronometer to ensure you’re giving your body the appropriate amounts of nutrients for your needs and fitness goals. And be sure to drink plenty of water, too.

10. Be gentle with yourself

In today’s digital world, we’ve come to expect instant gratification, and we all are guilty of comparing ourselves with those we see living their best lives on social media.

But when it comes to working out, there’s no such thing as overnight success (although some people might try to tell you differently). Progress takes time. Slowly but surely, you’ll begin to see the effects of your hard work. Go easy on yourself.

A quick word on peace of mind

We won’t pretend that having a life insurance policy is the cornerstone of a successful exercise program. That said, taking care of your loved ones by having financial protection in place in case the worst should happen to you… well, it provides a little peace of mind, which can help you rest easier, breathe easier, and maybe even push through that last rep or lap.

A term life insurance policy from Haven Life is a great way to find that peace of mind for the long term. (And hey, with the health benefits you gain from your active lifestyle, you might even qualify for a lower rate.) But don’t wait for a new fitness routine to take care of those who matter most — get your free online life insurance quote today.

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About Jessica Moore

Read more by Jessica Moore

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

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