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How to start a fitness routine you’ll stick to

Want to be less couch potato and more sweet potato? It might be difficult to get going if you haven’t exercised for a while, or if you’ve never really exercised much before. Don’t sweat: we’ve compiled five pointers to get you started on a fitness routine you’ll want to maintain.

One small thing: Work out with a friend – you will be more motivated and more likely to stick to your fitness routine.

1. Start small

Don’t let big goals weigh you down; instead, start with weekly targets concentrating on what you want to achieve. Then up the ante the following week. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they embark on a fitness plan is trying to do too much too soon. If you spend Day 1 hitting the gym for a two-hour high-intensity spinning class, fuelled by a zero-sugar, zero-carb, zero-everything diet, you may struggle to motivate yourself to do it all again on Day 2 or 3 or, in fact, ever. As the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa recommends: start slowly and set realistic goals that you can work towards.

2. Phone a (fit) friend

There’s nothing like peer pressure to get you moving. Loads of studies have found that if you work out with friends, you’re more likely to achieve your fitness and weight-loss goals – especially if those friends are fitter than you are. The research is pretty emphatic: one study found that 95% of the people who started a weight-loss programme with friends completed it, compared with the 76% who did it on their own. So rather than going solo, either enlist a buddy or join a regular exercise group, like Adventure Boot Camp or one of the classes at your local gym. Run/Walk for Life is an excellent starting point too.

3. Track your progress

The best way to see that your exercise efforts are paying off is by tracking your progress and measuring your success. Invest in a fitness tracker – these nifty devices keep track of your heart rate, distance run, steps walked and kilojoules burned. Download a fitness app, keep a food journal, take your measurements (waist, hips, thighs and upper arms) once a week, or take a series of selfies… do whatever works best for you. Just make sure you’re not exercising aimlessly with no check-ins along the way.

4. Mix it up

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, the best way to achieve gradual and sustained (in other words, healthy and lasting) weight loss is by combining healthy eating with regular physical activity. They recommend at least 150 minutes a week (so 30 minutes a day, Monday to Friday) of “moderate-intensity physical activity”, which means any activities that increase your heart and breathing rates. Whether it’s walking, running, yoga, cycling or weight training, it needs to gets your heart pumping.

5. Make it fun

If you hate it, you’ll stop doing it. Nothing will motivate you more, or keep you exercising longer, than finding something you love doing. Who knows, you could have a hidden love for mixed martial arts, yoga or Zumba. You won’t know until you’ve tried. Recent research to come out of the US found, surprisingly, that the more people did high-intensity training, the more they enjoyed it. Find ways to make your workouts fun, and before you know it, exercise will be a habit you enjoy, rather than a chore you endure.

Disclaimer: Pick n Pay recommends that your consult with your doctor or a medical professional before starting any new exercise programme. An exercise regimen is best tailored to the individual and their unique health profile. Any exercise carries risk of injury – especially if you have a pre-existing health condition. The individual accepts sole responsibility for any loss or damage that may result.