Adult Workout: Beginner

By Linda Melone, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer

Deciding to exercise and get in shape is the first step toward a healthier life—and it's never too late! Regular exercise helps your heart, lungs, muscles and even your brain function more efficiently. Plus, you'll live longer, studies show. New exercisers can expect to transition through five stages of "motivational readiness," which occur at varying rates depending on the individual. Acknowledging each stage may help you find ways to stick with a program and avoid becoming one of the majority of new exercisers who quit within three to six months.

Which stage best describes you?

1. Precontemplation: you have no intention of starting exercise within the next six months
2. Contemplation: you intend to start exercising within the next six months
3. Preparation: you're doing some physical activity, but not at recommended levels for optimal health
4. Action: you are actively engaged in an exercise program but have not maintained it for six months or longer
5. Maintenance: you've been exercising for six months or longer

Until you've exercised regularly for six months or longer, you'll likely find yourself going back and forth between the various stages. To effectively stay with a program, start with realistic expectations. Speaking with a certified personal trainer may help you set reasonable goals. In addition, taking steps to reduce the risk of injury, boredom and burnout must be addressed proactively. Garnering support and developing coping strategies are also essential for success.

Depending on your goals, a general guide for each workout should include:

  • A thorough warm-up: 5 to 10 minutes of walking or gentle total body exercise
  • Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise: 3 to 5 days a week or more
  • Resistance/weight training: 3 to 4 days a week on alternate days
  • Flexibility training (stretching, yoga): after each session—may be part of the cool down
  • Cool down: 5 minutes after each session, gentle walking, stretching


  • Tips to Get Started

  • Set realistic goals within your personal capabilities
  • Find activities you enjoy
  • Elicit supportive friends or family to join you and/or hold you accountable
  • Schedule exercise into your calendar at the beginning of the week
  • Start slow to allow your neuromuscular system to adjust to the new moves before increasing intensity
  • Cross-train: try a variety of exercise activities, such as yoga, biking, aerobic classes, etc., to find what works for you, avoid boredom and prevent injuries
  • Buy proper footwear suitable for the type of exercise


  • Activities to Try

    Mix and match these activities and create your own versions to keep it fun. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, easily achieved in 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

    Done with the beginner's workout? Move on to Intermediate.


    This content was provided by American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the world's largest sports medicine and exercise science organization and proud content provider for NBA FIT