By Carol Sorgen, Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on November 20, 2012
Experts and successful exercisers reveal the top tips and tricks they use to get the most from their fitness routines.
Getting and staying fit can be a challenge. For many of us, it's hard just to get up off the couch. So what's the secret of people who have managed to make exercise a way of life?
1. Be Consistent
Chase Squires is the first to admit that he's no fitness expert. But he is a guy who used to weigh 205 pounds, more than was healthy for his 5'4" frame. "In my vacation pictures in 2002, I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man at the beach," says the 42-year-old Colorado resident. Squires decided enough was enough, cut out fatty food, and started walking on a treadmill. The pounds came off and soon he was running marathons -- not fast, but in the race. He ran his first 50-mile race in October 2003 and completed his first 100-miler a year later. Since then, he's completed several 100-mile, 50-mile, and 50k races.
His secret? "I'm not fast, but I'm consistent," says Squires, who says consistency is his best tip for maintaining a successful fitness regimen.
"It all started with 20 minutes on a treadmill," he says. "The difference between my success and others who have struggled is that I did it every single day. No exercise program in the world works if you don't do it consistently."
2. Follow an Effective Exercise Routine
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently surveyed 1,000 ACE-certified personal trainers about the best techniques to get fit. Their top three suggestions:
- Strength training. Even 20 minutes a day twice a week will help tone the entire body.
- Interval training. "In its most basic form, interval training might involve walking for two minutes, running for two, and alternating this pattern throughout the duration of a workout," says Cedric Bryant, PhD, FACSM, chief science officer for ACE. "It is an extremely time-efficient and productive way to exercise."
- Increased cardio/aerobic exercise. Bryant suggests accumulating 60 minutes or more a day of low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, running, or dancing.
3. Set Realistic Goals
"Don't strive for perfection or an improbable goal that can't be met," says Kara Thompson, spokesperson for the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). "Focus instead on increasing healthy behaviors."
In other words, don't worry if you can't run a 5K just yet. Make it a habit to walk 15 minutes a day, and add time, distance, and intensity from there.