Building fitness doesn’t simply happen overnight. It’s best to think of it as an ongoing journey — and to try to enjoy the ride. Sometimes we’re more motivated than others, but the important thing is to find something you enjoy doing and keep coming back. Building a consistent routine that becomes a way of life is paramount for long-term success. Just like nutrition and weight loss, there’s no magic bullet, and that’s OK.
Here, 10 tips to turn fitness into a healthy habit for life:
MICRO WORKOUTS COUNT
Every little bit helps, which is why even a 10-minute workout helps. Bonus points if you can string together a few over the course of a day. Ones that don’t require equipment can still be effective, whether you choose a total-body workout or one that focuses on your core. Bands are one of the most useful and versatile pieces of equipment — and there’s a 10-minute workout for that. If the band is the most versatile, the kettlebell could likely be the trendiest (but with staying power).
PLANS WORK WELL FOR MOTIVATION
Motivation comes in many forms, which may or may not include peer pressure or a sense of community because we’re in it together. This is how time-limited challenges can help spark a fitness journey. Whether it’s 14 days of plank exercises or four weeks of core strengthening; 28-day squat, plank and lunge plan or maybe it’s the ultimate 31-day squat, lunge and pushup plan — whatever you choose, commit and get it done.
KNOWING BASIC MOVES IS REALLY ALL YOU NEED
It’s best not to overcomplicate things, especially when it comes to working out. Knowing just a few essential moves — from pushups and planks to squats and lunges — can lead to countless workouts that can be done at the gym or at home. By focusing on fundamental movement patterns, you can get an effective workout using simple moves and avoid a few common strength-training pitfalls.
YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH A LOT IN 30 MINUTES
It’s common to think you need at least an hour in the gym, but really whatever time you have to move is time you should use to move. Whether you like HIIT, strength training, moderate cardio or a mix of cardio and strength — these are all effective, trainer-approved ways to use 30 minutes. And, hey, if you prefer to rock climb, bike or row, those are good ways to spend your time, too.
THE BEST WORKOUT IS THE ONE YOU ENJOY
Not everyone is a gym rat, and that’s OK. Finding the right workout for you is partially based on your personality; however, just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you wouldn’t love a good boxing class. Try different workouts — from kettlebell to stairclimber to rowing to spin class — and see what resonates most. If you enjoy it, the chances of including it in your routine grow.
WEIGHT LOSS WILL HAPPEN SLOWLY
As they say, abs are made in the kitchen, which is why nutrition plays such a major role in weight loss. However, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest — and resistance training makes a difference. Cardio also helps with fat loss, especially if you know your heart rate and can train according to zones.
YOU CAN’T GO WRONG BY MOVING
If you had only 20 minutes to spare, experts seems to lean to a total-body interval workout. (However, see point number 5.) There are pros to strength work as well as cardio, so a well-balanced routine will have a little bit of both. Similarly, whether you should lift weights before or after cardio is another dilemma that’s worth having because it assumes you’re already getting those workouts in and are in optimizing mode.
FUELING WORKOUTS IS IMPORTANT
Building on point number 6, what you put into your body to fuel a workout matters. It’s better to go for a lifestyle change than for quick weight loss. Dietitians and fitness pros recommend quick energy, easy-to-digest snacks before a workout. Most trainers will say breakfast is their favorite meal and have strong opinions on what a trainer-approved breakfast would be. And the debate rages over whether intermittent fasting and cardio go hand in hand.
YOGA IS HARDER (AND MORE EFFECTIVE) THAN YOU THINK
Yoga is many things, and we’ve decoded 23 different yoga styles, not including goat yoga. It’s good to try various styles to see which you like best, and being new to a practice or a class can be intimidating — but we all have to start somewhere. Sometimes, it’s best to start small with a simple five-pose practice to combat sitting too much or the effects of running.
THE KEY IS TO KEEP COMING BACK
It’s sad but true that falling off the workout bandwagon has consequences. All the hard work diminishes pretty quickly — Think: roughly a month. Whether an injury, travel or a busy job requires you to take some time off, it’s best to commit to coming back as soon as you can — and when you do, it’s best to have a plan to get back into exercise.
Originally published November 2018, updated January 2023
Make progress every day while you work on mini fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps or learning to track macros. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.