Did you know that exercise is one of the healthiest things you could do for your body? It keeps your heart healthy, bones and muscles strong, and improves your mental health. Pat yourself on the back for wanting to take care of your health! But starting an exercise plan can be frustrating. If you’re busy all the time, you might think that you don’t have time to work out and that you must exercise for hours on end. The truth is that any movement counts, even as little as five to fifteen minutes.

Researchers recommend exercising for at least three days a week and balancing cardiovascular exercise (cardio) with resistance training. Some people like to go for an afternoon walk, morning jog, or do jumping jacks, which are all great ways to get your heart pumping. Resistance training involves your body resisting a force, such as lifting weights or doing pushups. Most who are consistent with their workout practice one or more of the following:

1. Have a realistic goal. For a quick boost of motivation, think about why you want to exercise in the first place. When you have a game plan, you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Most people want to exercise to lose weight and build muscle. Some want to do it to keep their health in check while they have fun.

2. Make exercise fun. Do you remember when you were a kid at recess playing on the monkey bars? You were having a good time and exercising without realizing it. You weren’t thinking about how many calories you burned or how many repetitions you did. You’re more likely to stick to your workout if you enjoy it.

3. Take your workout outside. Exercising outside has unique benefits that you can’t get from indoor workouts. For example, when you’re breaking a sweat under the sun, you might have an easier time falling asleep when it’s time to go to bed. Your brain (circadian clock) knows when to release chemicals that make you sleepy or energetic if it detects sunlight. Check the weather forecast before you work out!

4. Listen to your body. Imagine a person playing tag with their friends. As he is running away from the tagged one, he notices a sharp pain in his shin. In this story, he should stop and tell his friends that he can no longer play tag. He might injure himself if he continues to play. The trick is knowing when your body has had enough.

5. Avoid seated exercises. Are you looking to accomplish more in less time? Adjust your seated exercises and do them while standing up instead. Your body needs to rely on more muscles to keep you balanced.

6. Don’t check your phone or watch television. Exercise is a time for you! When you’re focused, you can challenge yourself better. Turn off the television and bring some earbuds with you for motivation. Bonus points if you have a playlist ready!

7. Stick to compound exercises. Compound exercises can be a valuable addition to anyone looking to save more time. They’re realistic and functional since they use many muscles at once. If you think about it, during the day, every time you open a door or play with your pet, you’re not just using one muscle!

8. Switch up your routine. Keeping your exercise fun means that you’re more likely to stick to them. But when that exercise isn’t fun anymore, you’ll lose motivation to stay on track. Over time, your body adapts to the movements you do, and switching it up can help them grow more.

9. Warm-up and cool down. You might want to get your workout over with, but it’s not worth skipping a warm-up or a cool down. Jumping straight into an intense workout can wind you up with injuries. Warming up increases blood flow to your muscles, priming them up for movement. If you stop without cooling down, you can faint because your blood flow came to a sudden stop. An example of warming up and cooling down would be someone walking before and after their workout. Since we sit down a lot during the day, you should also try glute activation exercises, such as the single-leg glute bridge.

10. Bring a water bottle. Not many people think about the importance of staying well hydrated, especially during physical activity. Keeping that bottle of water nearby can improve your muscle’s performance and help regulate your body temperature. If you exercised for more than an hour, you should drink a sports drink instead. Read the nutrition label as some sports drinks can have a lot of sugar.

11. Remember to breathe. If you breathe the right way, you might have an easier time with your workout. It might not sound like a big deal, but if your body doesn’t get enough oxygen, you could feel your muscles tire out sooner than expected and possibly blackout. For example, someone should breathe out as they lift weights and then breathe in once they lowered them.

12. Have good posture. Not having proper posture can slow your progress toward your fitness goals. If you don’t perform an exercise the right way, you could injure or pull a muscle. Before you bring out the heavyweights, find a mirror and watch yourself perform the exercise without any weights. Look at how the professionals do the same exercise you’re trying to do and compare your posture to theirs. Once you feel that you’ve mastered the basic movement, start with a lighter weight and add from there as the exercise becomes easier to do. If you notice improper posture while lifting heavy weights, then try lifting lighter weights instead.

13. Spit out the gum and mints. Chewing gum and mints might taste pleasant, but you’re better off keeping them out of your workouts. Moving quickly with something in your mouth can cause you to choke. Instead, add some fruit juice to your water, like a few drops of lemon juice from a lemon slice.

14. Equally exercise your muscles. Incorporating different movements in your exercise plan ensures that you’re strengthening all of your muscles. An example would be if you did pull-ups or chin-ups after you did pushups.

15. Exercise in all planes. You might achieve greater results if your workout takes your body through different motions. We constantly move forward and backward, side to side, and twist and rotate.

16. Exercise bilaterally and unilaterally. For optimal health, make sure you’re strengthening yourself bilaterally and unilaterally. Bilateral is when you use both arms or legs during exercise. For unilateral, remember that you’re using one arm or leg to exercise. The single-leg squat is unilateral, and the standard squat using both legs is bilateral.

17. Go easy if it’s your first time. It’s easy to get excited at the gym and push yourself to the limit. You have the right attitude! Before you start, review your fitness goals and determine if you’re overdoing them. Slowly ease into your workout and make them simple at first.

18. Don’t forget about past injuries. Listen to what your physical therapist or doctor said about any injuries you had. Sometimes an injured area that healed can become injured again.

19. Don’t overdo cardio. Do you like to run on the treadmill? Or is dancing more of your thing? These all count as cardio and are healthy for your heart. For example, during cardio, a hormone called cortisol is released and lowers blood pressure. Studies seem to suggest that the heart health benefits of cardio diminish when done excessively, however. It’s believed that long bouts of cardio can alter the heart in an unhealthy way.

20. Give your body time to recover. While exercise is a great way to keep your body working right, too much can mean the opposite. Taking a rest gives your body the chance to repair itself from all the wear and tear.

21. Know when not to exercise if you’re sick. Don’t worry if you feel guilty about skipping your workout when feeling under the weather. The best thing for your body is rest, especially if you feel fever, nausea, or diarrhea. If your symptoms are above the neck, like a runny nose or a headache, and you feel up to it, you can do a little bit of light exercise.

22. Do light exercise for sore muscles. Did you wake up sore today despite being able to lift a lot of weight yesterday? It’s common for beginners and experienced athletes to get muscle soreness. Your muscles grow from a process that involves them getting small tears from exercise. Doing light exercise can help your muscles recover faster and alleviate the soreness. Try going for a swim or a walk instead of your usual workout.

23. Eat nutritious meals. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean cutting out your favorite foods. Steer clear of processed foods and always eat whole vegetables and fruits with the skin on. Eat foods high in protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals.

24. Make sleep a priority. When you miss a night of sleep, you feel groggy the next day! Getting enough sleep lowers the chance that you’ll get sick and helps you manage your emotions better.

25. Don’t give up. It’s understandable to get overwhelmed by exercise. It’s helpful to make sure your goals are realistic and to remember how beneficial exercise is. You can also plan to exercise in places that are relaxing, like the beach or a park.

Bonus tip: Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone you see working out has a different goal and lifestyle. Make a fitness log and write down achievements you made and try to beat them. For example, try to lift heavier weights than you did last time. When you compare yourself to yourself, your goals become more attainable.

Your Impact on Others

A little inspiration is all it takes. You will be a role model to those around you when they see you exercising and taking care of your health. If you don’t know where to start, you should try this HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout.