(Photo: Daily Mail UK)

The study reports just keep coming in, causing even the most confirmed couch potatoes to think again. Working out is good for weight loss, sure, but recent research indicates that it’s also key in maintaining bone density and heart health, preventing diabetes, and even keeping the mind sharp against depression and dementia.

But no matter how many reasons there are for working out, getting started can be daunting. Here are a few tips to help get moving.

First step: a good pair of sneakers and a sports bra. You want both to fit and support you comfortably. Get them fitted in person at a store.  If you have to dig your sneakers out of the back of the closet, start with new ones.

You don’t have to love it, you just have to do it. If you do love it, great. But more important is that your workout fits into your daily schedule, and if it’s at a gym or fitness center, that it’s easy to get to. Your routine should help build strength and flexibility and get your heart pumping. That doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the running trail or lifting weights. Dance classes, active yoga, and swimming are fine options, too. You may be surprised by how much you end up looking forward to it.

It can fit into your schedule. A study last month suggested that women needed to work out a full hour every day to stave off weight gain–throwing millions of us grit-your-teeth-and-do-it types into despair.

But there are ways to sneak more exercise into your daily routine, like walking or using a bike to run nearby errands…parking the car a few blocks from your destination…or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Or see how many mini-workouts you can make part of your day: 15 leg-lifts here, 10 wall push-ups there. It all adds up. At the gym, look for fast weight-training circuits that promise total-body workouts in under half an hour, or group classes that offer a more concentrated version of the typical class experience.

Hiring a trainer can kick-start your program. A certified trainer can not only help you get motivated and stick to your schedule, but can make sure you’re exercising correctly (to prevent injury) and progressing enough to keep things interesting. Certifying organizations include the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

Pace yourself. Once you’re motivated and ready to make changes, you’ll probably want to see results immediately. But let’s be realistic: it can’t happen all at once. For instance, it might be smart to focus on getting your cardio workout and a good stretching routine in place before adding weights. If you want to build endurance, you might try a structured program like Cool Running’s Couch To 5K Running Plan.

Before you see the results you’re looking for, be ready for results you can’t see. It takes six to eight weeks, on average, to notice new muscles and looser-fitting clothes. But even one to three weeks into your new routine, you might find that you’re sleeping better, feeling calmer, and have more interest in sex (and we know that can be a great workout, too).

Others who don’t see you every day will probably notice your new muscles and fitter self before you do. So here’s a thought: as you begin, set a lunch date with a friend you don’t see often, for two months from your first workout. And then get ready to hear how impressive the results of your new routine have been.

A freelance writer, features journalist, blogger and book reviewer, frequent WVFC contributor Elizabeth Willse spent years supporting her writing by working as a personal trainer, helping men and women get healthier in ways that work for them.

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  • Elizabeth W April 11, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Latest from the NY Times on exercise and reps: heavy weights and fewer reps are the way to go, and won’t make you bulky


  • Exercise, Yes: 5 Tips For Getting Started « Elizabeth Willse: Freelance Writer April 6, 2010 at 8:48 am

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