If you’re new to exercise it can be hard to know where to start. The good news is that it doesn’t really matter, as long as you choose something appropriate for your level of fitness. At this stage, just getting into a regular exercise habit is the most important thing. As you get used to exercising, you can start to figure out what works best for you. This mini guide begins with how to choose a program and suggests 6 easy workouts for beginners. Then it goes through scheduling and tracking your workouts and ends with how to add variety and progression to your workouts.
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What do you want to achieve?
You need to have some idea of what you’re aiming for. For example if you just want to be more active and lose some weight, a walking program might suit you. If you want to enter a charity run for the first time, a “walk to run” program would be better. Or you might want to improve your muscle tone, in which case you would need a strength program.
If you’ve ever been to a gym or had a personal trainer you may have been told you need to have SMART goals (read about SMART goals here). In fact, SMART goals can be intimidating and counterproductive for beginners. As long as you have a general idea of what sort of exercise you want to do, this is a good starting point. Below is a list of 6 recommended plans for beginners available on this site, with a summary of the benefits of each.
6 easy workouts for beginners
Walking schedule for beginners
If you’re really not keen on energetic exercise but want to lose weight and improve your cardio fitness, walking is a good option. This program consists of 3 x 20 minute and 3 x 10 minute walks per week. Go to workout.
How to start running
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a cardio fitness program that’s a bit more energetic, then try this beginner running program. It’s an 8 week walk-to-run program with the goal of being able to run continuously for 15 minutes at the end of the 8 weeks. Go to workout.
Pilates for beginners
PIlates is excellent for posture, abdominal training and flexibility. This is a 4 week program that guides you through the basics of Pilates, covering 6 standard Pilates exercises. Go to workout.
Combination weekly workout schedule
This workout is based on doing 10 minutes a day 6 days a week and covers both cardio and muscle toning. There are 2 days of walking, 2 days of leg exercises and 2 days of upper body and abs exercises. Go to workout.
Beginner exercise circuit
Another cardio/muscle toning combination. This one is a bit more energetic than the weekly workout above. It also includes a couple of high impact moves – which may not be suitable for you if you are very overweight or have joint problems. It’s a 20 minute workout that should be done 3 times a week for best results. Go to workout.
Also a 20 minute workout to be done 3 times a week, this one focuses on muscle toning. Go to workout
When will you do your workouts?
Not having enough time is one of the major barriers to exercise. Planning how you’re going to fit it in can make the difference between establishing a long term exercise habit and giving up after a few weeks.
To help you decide when you can fit in some time for exercise, download this printable weekly schedule and fill in all your commitments. Then see what time slots you have available. All the above suggested easy workouts for beginners take 20 minutes or less, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a space to fit them in.
Use an exercise planner and tracker
Planning and tracking your workouts helps you to stay committed and accountable. Once you’ve identified what time slots you have available for exercise, schedule them in on this printable. If you miss scheduled workouts, make notes on why. This can help you to spot patterns and modify your plans. You may find that a particular day or time doesn’t work for you, or that other factors like your mood or what you’ve eaten impact on whether you miss your exercise session. It’s also good to note down whether you enjoyed the workout, how difficult/easy it was etc. Looking back after a few weeks, you may be motivated to see that it’s getting easier and you’re enjoying it more. On the other hand, it may become clear that you really don’t enjoy your chosen workout and you need to try something else.
What do you need for your workout?
You’ll need a few basic items for these workouts:
- Comfortable clothing that is either loose fitting or stretchy
- For running, a supportive sports bra
- Also for running, training shoes that will absorb impact
- For walking, flat well-fitting shoes (training shoes are also good for walking)
- You’ll also need trainers and a sports bra for the indoor full-body circuit
- For the leg workout, you may prefer to wear trainers, or barefoot is fine. If you wear socks only, make sure you’re not going to slip on the floor.
Water bottle for running and walking
It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re exercising, so when you’re out walking and running you’ll need a bottle you can carry easily.
A timer for walking and running – you just need something that you can time your intervals with. A fitness watch is ideal, but you can also use an ordinary watch.
Exercise mat – not essential but nice to have. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to use something else for cushioning for abs exercises and other floor work – a folded blanket for example.
Staying motivated and progressing
Once you’ve got into a regular exercise habit, it’s good to try new workouts. Even if you’re happy with the level of fitness you’re at and don’t want to progress, variety helps to keep you interested and motivated.
Ideas for variety and progression
- Challenges – fitness challenges motivate you towards a specific goal over a short space of time. They’re a good way to add some variety or try something different.
- If you’re walking for fitness, there are lots of ways to vary your walks. You can change your route, try different interval patterns, include some uphill walking, change the frequency and duration of your walks, or include some running intervals.
- If you’re already running, most of the above applies to running too.
- For muscle toning – try different routines. Even if routines have similar exercises, changing the rep/set combination will add some variety and challenge you differently.
- Work on your flexibility. As you start exercising more, it’s a good idea to work on your flexibility so that you have a good range of movement around your joints.
Stay up to date with new workouts
Enter your e-mail address in the box below to sign up to the My Fitness Planner newsletter (sent out every 2 weeks) to stay updated with new workouts and ideas to keep you motivated.
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