The habits that make us: 3 simple steps to build a consistent exercise routine

Fitness & Sports Health

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Oct 30, 2023

Exercise isn’t just about lifting weights or running miles—it's discovering a path to a healthier, happier you. With every step, you push the boundaries of your comfort zone and unearth hidden strength that’s been inside you all along.

In this installment of The habits that make us series, we’re exploring how you can unlock your potential through the power of a consistent exercise routine.

Step forward to a healthier you

Once you’ve decided to get moving, each workout is a chance to get closer to the best version of yourself.

“Now that you have made the decision to become healthier and fitter, the next step is making a plan and building an exercise routine to help you achieve your goals,” said Pasqual Mendoza, MS, EP II, ACSM-CPT, exercise physiologist at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Fort Worth.

“The recommendation for general health is that you set aside time on at least two days per week for strength training and that you try to fit in over 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, such as walking or jogging,” he said.

Accept the challenge, commit to your well-being and watch your life transform one workout at a time. Plus, there's no better reward than the flood of endorphins you’ll feel after exercising.

“The basic formula for building an exercise routine is summed up by the acronym FITT,” Pasqual said:

  • Frequency: The number of days you’ll exercise per week
  • Intensity: How hard you work while you’re exercising
  • Time: The amount of time spent exercising
  • Type: The specific exercise performed, such as cycling or yoga

Set your exercise goals to unlock your power

So, where do you start? According to Pasqual, the first step in building an exercise routine is deciding what your main goals are.

“Do you want to emphasize strength training or build better endurance?” he said. “And some people just want to generally be healthier and get a good balance of both strength and endurance, which is great.”

Your body, your rules. Set your goals and design a workout routine that empowers you and more importantly, that you will enjoy. If you hate running, forcing yourself to hit the pavement every day will quickly feel demoralizing. There’s a world of fitness out there to discover. You want to feel the energy and vitality that a well-planned exercise routine brings. Try different workout classes, make a gym buddy or download an app to keep track of your goals.

Build your program for success

Now that you have a firm grasp of your health goals and your schedule, think about your weekly exercise routine. Turn your fitness dreams into a reality through consistent effort. Start with planning out your schedule for just one week of training. Even Olympic athletes had to start somewhere.

Here’s an example of a beginner program:

  • Monday: A brisk 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Tuesday: Full body strength training, along with a 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Wednesday: A brisk 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Thursday: A brisk 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Friday: Full body strength training, along with a 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Saturday and Sunday: A brisk 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner

Start slow and build your confidence

The magic happens when you make exercise a daily ritual and simply part of your life. Once you’ve set an ideal routine for the week, it’s time to choose the type of exercise you want to get started on.

“For strength training, focus on perfecting compound exercises, two movements that require multiple joints to move at once,” Pasqual said. “Compound exercises are the best bang for your buck, so you will effectively work every muscle group in the body and build strength much more effectively and efficiently.”

It’s not about lifting the heaviest weights from the very beginning. To avoid injury, make sure to start with lighter weights and great form before challenging yourself in increments of around 5 lbs. Injuries are both physical and mental setbacks from achieving your goals—you can transform your life one workout at a time, so there’s no need to rush.

“For moderate aerobic exercise, you can do anything that gets you up, moving and raises your heart rate,” Pasqual said.

A simple, brisk 10-minute walk after each meal is a great way to start. Increase these walks incrementally and maybe even try to add a short jog to get your heart pumping. You’ll soon see your hard work paying off as your aerobic fitness increases. Celebrate every fitness victory and encourage yourself to keep going, one step at a time.

A pathway to personal growth

Think of it this way: exercise isn't just a routine. It's a pathway to personal growth.

“It can be a lot to think about, but just take one step at a time and you’ll have a solid exercise plan in no time and be on your way to a healthier life,” Pasqual said.

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