Exercise for Beginners: 12 Must-Know Tips to Get Moving

Regular exercise can increase happiness and satisfaction in your life – but it can be intimidating! Exercise for beginners can be difficult to navigate, so we’ve broken it down into 12 easy exercise tips that will have you feeling confident in no time!

Exercise for Beginners

Workout Tips for Beginners

There’s a lot of guides out there about beginning exercise. I’ve read many of them, and found a lot of the tips to be helpful. While I’ve been exercising more or less regularly for the past 10 years, I honestly still consider myself a beginner! I know that might sound silly, but I feel like there’s so much more I need to learn, and so much more endurance to build up. There are times where most of my exercise is just taking Jack on walks (which is totally fine in my opinion), but I’m always looking for new ways to improve my workouts as well.

I thought I would share with you some exercise tips that I’ve found helpful as I’ve tried to become better at exercising!

Working out for Beginners

1) Have a Plan

Maybe it’s just me, but when I go to the gym with no plan of what I’m going to do, I end up just dawdling around from machine to machine, feeling kind of lost. I leave the gym feeling like I really didn’t do much of anything, when in reality, I just did a tiny bit of everything. While this is still better than not working out at all, I’ve found when I have a plan in mind, I’m much more succesful.

For instance, the other day when I went to the gym, and I was determined to go around the track 10 times — walking or running, that’s what I wanted to do — and then do 10 minutes on the weight machines. After I accomplished this, it felt so good!

Your plan can be as simple as you want it to be — just pick something that works for you. Here are a few options I like:

  • Running/Walking Outside — Free!
  • Blogilates – Free
  • Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (1.99 per episode, or 9.99 for the DVD). She has an amazing app, too!
  • Gym Membership — this will obviously vary, depending on where you live. We personally love going to the rec center near our house because it’s cheap, has a pool, and state of the art equipment. It makes it easier to work out as a family! Check around for different deals at the gyms in your area (If you have a 24 Hour Fitness nearby, you can get a three day pass to check it out).

My personal favorite way to workout is with the Aaptiv app. I wrote an Aaptiv review awhile back, but I use this app multiple times a week. It just really motivates you! You can get a free 30 day trial to check it out – but I think you’ll be hooked after. They have workouts for all levels.

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2) Don’t Get Discouraged

This is one area I need to work on more, for sure. In a world where instant gratification is desired (though, not ideal), it can be hard not to see results right away. I think it’s important to remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle does take work, and not all the effects will be seen right away.

It might be tempting (if you are trying to lose weight) to go on a crash or fad diet, especially one that claims to have you lose tons of weight right away, but they aren’t worth it! Slow and steady wins the race. Always remember that.

Even if you are just exercising to just maintain a healthy lifestyle (which, you should definitely be doing), remember that even if exercising seems like another thing on your list of things to do, it will help keep you alive longer to have a list of things to do 😉

3) Drink Lots of Water

The recommended amount of water a person should drink is at least 8 glasses (8 ounces each) of water. I’ve been trying to drink two liters a day lately, and let me tell you, it can be hard! However, water is the key to feeling energized, losing weight, increasing stamina while exercising, and just helping your body work better. I know that when I drink more water, I feel so much better, even if it’s hard to remember.

When you are first starting to exercise, if you find yourself feeling sluggish and extra tired and sore…re-evaluate how much water you are drinking! One important thing to remember, however, is that it’s usually better to drink tiny sips of water while exercising, rather than chugging it. I don’t know if there’s anything scientific reason behind this, but I know that I tend to cramp up when I chug water, rather than just sipping.

I’ve found that putting some lemon juice in my water is a great way to add some flavor, without added calories or artificial ingredients. I’ll admit, I’m kind of addicted! Infused water bottles are AWESOME. You can put all sorts of fruits (or vegetables!) in them, and it makes drinking water a little more flavorful.

I recently bought a 64 ounce water bottle, which has helped me increase my water intake substantially. I highly recommend this if you have trouble keeping track!

4) Short, Intense Workouts > Long periods of exercising

There is a lot of debate on what type of exercise is the best, and really, when it comes down to it, if you are doing something, that’s better than nothing. However, high intensity interval training (HIIT) appears to be the general consensus for the most effective workouts.

Personally, I prefer this, because I’ve never been the type to really enjoy riding the elliptical for an hour, or even participating in an hour long group class. If you are doing intense intervals of working out for 15 minutes, it will burn more calories overall, in a faster amount of time, over other workouts (at least that’s what I’ve read!)

There are a lot of websites, and even fitness clubs, out there with exercise plans that follow the short, intense plan, and a lot of them are free. One site I highly recommend is Tone and Tighten. It’s a great website with TONS of realistic workouts, and fitness and health plans, that are great for anyone. My favorite are the 10 minute workouts (about half way down this page) that can easily be done at home. They are super intense, but super effective, too. I did this “100 Calories in under 10 minutes” workout awhile back, and it was one of the best workouts I ever had done. So definitely check that site out for some great tips.

Again. I also recommend Aaptiv. They have some amazing HIIT workouts.

5) Listen to Something

Not everyone will enjoy music while exercising, but for me, I always find it to be rather soothing. Instead of thinking, “Wow, I can’t wait to be done!” I think, “I love this song!” I personally love just turning on Pandora, and taking whatever they throw at me, but you can easily create a playlist using a service like Spotify, or just uploading songs to your music player (so your phone, iPod, etc.)

If music isn’t your thing, podcasts or audiobooks are awesome choices too. Forrest always enjoys listening to both those things. With Amazon unlimited, you get access to tons of music and audiobooks for your monthly fee – you can get a 30 day trial to see if it’s worth it! We also really love Scribd, which is an audiobook service. It is $8.99 a month, but you can grab a 60 day free trial.

6) Appropriate Exercise Attire

Earlier I said you can pretty much exercise in just about any clothes you own…and while I stand behind that, I do think that having clothing that is specifically for exercising is a good idea. I’ll talk more about my recommendations later, but make sure you have a reliable athletic shoe for sure. That’s essential.

There is a lot of very expensive exercise clothing out there (where the price may or may not be justified) but places that often have good quality exercise clothing are Target (they had an amazing sale recently — I got a really nice exercise jacket for less than $10) and Costco.

I recently heard about a site called Fabletics that I am really excited about. It was launched by Kate Hudson, who wanted to provide a place for women to get cute, affordable, and high quality exercise attire. When you sign up, you get 50% off your first outfit and free shipping. I have quite a few outfits from them, and I love every single one! I definitely recommend looking into it! You can signup here to take advantage of their current promotions.

7) Set Goals

This kind of goes along with having a plan. The best way to measure progress is by having simple goals that you can easily measure — so instead of just saying, “I want to be in better shape,” you could say, “I want to be able to lift 25 pounds” or “I want to lose 3 inches off my waist.” Having goals like these are so much easier to measure than ambiguous ones! Plus, it’s always exciting when you reach a goal.

8) Be consistent

I think this is what always puts me back into the “perpetual beginner” stage. I will go through periods where I exercise every single day, and I’m feeling great, and then something happens, and I get knocked off that high I was on. And then, a few months later, I get started again, pretty much at the same place I started several months ago…and that’s frustrating!

I believe a lot of healthy living and exercise comes down to a mind game — you have to retrain your mind into making those things a priority. I’ve been trying to do this a lot lately — making exercise just part of our daily routine that is a priority, rather than a daunting task that is optional. As we’ve done this, it’s really helped us become more consistent. Now, going to the gym is just part of our routine that we all look forward to (especially for Jack, when we go swimming!)

9) Healthy Diet

Overall wellness isn’t just exercising, or drinking water, or just eating a few servings of fruits and vegetables every day. It’s truly a lifestyle that you have to adapt. You can’t expect to be or feel healthy if you eat junk food all day long, even if you still exercise. With that said, I still think indulging in savory (and perhaps even fattening foods) is okay every now and then. Moderation in all things, right?

10) Support System

For me, consistently exercising and eating healthy is so much easier when I have someone to talk to and encourage me a long the way. Having a friend or family member to help keep your accountable can be really helpful. Even just having someone to workout with can make it easier to consistently exercise!

I know that when I was single, I would usually just exercise by myself. However, on those days I didn’t want to exercise, there wasn’t really anyone there to say, “But we need to!” Now that I am married, Forrest is that support system. On the days I don’t want to exercise most, he’s always encouraging me, and vice versa. It makes a world of difference!

11) Do something you don’t hate 

I was thinking of saying “Do something you enjoy” but to be honest, sometimes the most effective exercises are when you aren’t particularly enjoying yourself. Sure, it’s more fun to to ride a stationary bike at a leisurely pace while watching Friends (or am I the only one who does that?!), but ask yourself — is it getting your heart rate up? Are you breaking a sweat? For me, when I find that I’m really enjoying an exercise (aka, I’m not feeling out of breath, or even sweating) it means it’s time to shake things up a little bit. However, I don’t think you should totally be dreading your workouts….so find a happy medium.

For me, I’ve found that if I do something I enjoy (such as Pilates) combined with something I may not love as much (running) I am more successful. Why? I think it’s because when I do Pilates, I can justify not running as much (understand my thinking? Probably not.)

12) Don’t Give Up

There will be times that you just don’t want to exercise. Maybe your sick, or pregnant, or you’d just rather sleep. And that’s okay. Just don’t let those times deter you. I will tell you though, you will likely never regret pushing yourself to exercise or eat healthy. However, you very likely might regret not doing so. It’s worth it to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even when the alternative seems easier.

Exercise Tool Kit:

I’ve said this several times, but you don’t need much of anything to exercise! However, there are things that make it a little easier or effective. Here is my exercise tool kit:

Whey Protein Powder: Protein powder isn’t just for people wanting to build tons of muscles. While that is definitely a reason why some people use it, there are benefits for protein powder that anyone can enjoy. Here are a few benefits of increasing your protein via a protein powder or shake:

  • It helps keep you fuller, for longer, which can help deter cravings or overeating
  • It can increase your metabolism, lean muscle mass and creates natural energy.
  • Stabilizes blood sugar
  • Helps prevent osteoperosis
  • Whey is easily absorbed
  • And more (see this link for more information on the benefits of whey protein.)

Be careful when purchasing whey protein powder. Some kinds are just filled with sugar and artificial ingredients. Plus, you want it to taste good (who wants to choke down something disgusting?!)

Amazon always has great deals on protein powder!

Comfortable Exercise Clothes: Maybe I’m just weird, but I think that having comfortable exercise clothes is so important. I know that when I’m wearing clothes that are actually meant for exercising (so, not Forrest’s t-shirt) I just feel more motivated to exercise. The clothes don’t have to be expensive — half of my clothes are from Target’s clearance section — but feeling comfortable is important. Here’s what I’m usually wearing.

  • Leggings. They are so darn comfortable…I pretty much wear them for exercise, for sleep, for lounging. I think they are perfect for exercise! I LOVE the Viv Collection of Leggings on Amazon.
  • A simple exercise shirt that comes with odor management and is more-or-less sweat resistant
  • Reebok Real Flex Strength Cross Training Shoe: I’ve had these shoes since last summer, and they still seem new. They are SO comfortable.
  • I recently started getting clothing from Fabletics. It’s a monthly subscription (that you can cancel at anytime of skip a month), and you can get your first exercise outfit for $25. I LOVE both the outfits I have gotten from them. They are extremely comfortable and the most high quality exercise clothing I’ve ever owned.

Yoga Mat: Even if you never, ever plan to do yoga, getting a yoga mat is a great idea! I use it all the time when I do any type of exercise video at home. It just makes the area you are working out on a little more comfortable and safe.

Hand Weights: There’s so much you can do with just a simple set of hand weights, especially at home. I have a set of 5 pound weights, but I recommend getting a few in different size increments. Amazon sells these for a very reasonable price.

Water Bottle: Remember how I said water is super, super important?! Well, one way to make it easier to drink water, is with a great water bottle. I always have trouble remembering how many glasses of water I’ve had by the end of the day, so I love my Nalgene Water Bottle. I’ve had mine since high school, and it’s still going strong. And since I love putting lemons in my water, I really want to get an infuser water bottle.

Wearable Tracker: I wasn’t convinced of the awesomeness of wearable fitness trackers, until, well, I got one! I have had the Misfit Shine, the FitBit Charge, and now I currently have an Apple Watch. I think that these help keep you on track, calorie wise, and are nice for people who like data (me!) There are tons out there, but these are the best wearable trackers, from what I’ve read:

Headphones: If you are going to be listening to anything, you are going to need headphones! I highly recommend getting some bluetooth headphones. I have been running on the treadmill and hit the cord on my head phones, knocking my phone to the ground, more times than once!

Supplements: There are all sorts of natural supplements out there that can help your workouts be more effective. You can check out your local health store, or pretty much anywhere online.

Something to Track Progress: Regardless of what your goals are, I think it’s important to have some kind of tool to measure your success. Here are a few tools I recommend:

  • One of the wearable trackers I mentioned above
  • A high quality scale. We recently purchased the Ozeri Touch Digital Bath Scale. It can store profiles for up to 8 people, and it measures body fat, muscle mass, bone mass, and water weight. I have found it’s a lot more effective to use a scale like this, over one that just says weight, because weight can be very subjective. I know some people are against scales, but for me, it’s one of the best things to keep me on track.
  • Body Fat Caliper – A simple way to figure out your body fat
  • Body Measuring Tape – Taking measurements can be far more effective at measuring success than a scale, especially in the beginning, when people sometimes gain weight (from muscle mass.)
  • MyFitnessPal – There are a lot of tools out there to help count calories, keep track of exercise, etc., but I think MyFitnessPal is the best…and it’s free! I’ve used Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal, and I much prefer MyFitnessPal!

What is in your exercise tool kit?

photo credit: darkmatter via photopin cc

I am not a professional in anyway. Any advice below is just from my experience 🙂 

Exercise for Beginners


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  • I love how you point out that exercising and eating healthy is so much easier when you have someone to talk to and encourage you along the way. My sister-in-law wants to get in shape, but she's had a hard time disciplining herself. She would really benefit from going to exercise classes so that she could make friends who could support her and hold her accountable.
  • I've been trying to get into running for some time now. I really love what you say about short Intense Workouts being better than long periods of exercise. I'm going to start trying more short-distance sprints rather than continuous running. Maybe that will keep me interested. Thanks! :)
  • Thanks for bringing up the Protein Milkshake Bar, Katie. I'll have to check them out. My all time favorite whey protein powder so far is Syntha-6 from BSN.
  • Great advice! I loved your comment about not watching Friends episodes while riding on a stationary bike, I am so guilty of stuff like that! You mentioned using whey protein powder, do you have a certain kind you like best that you recommend trying?
  • I just started running again, and this time I'm trying to get my DD9 involved so we can encourage each other since neither of us are "runners". Thanks for the article - great tips and recommendations!
    • I think the best kind of exercise is when it's done with little ones :) I'm glad I"m not the only one who does crazy dancing with their kid
  • Does cleaning the house every Saturday count!??!! :) I love going to the gym for 45 mins three days out of the week. It allows me time away from all the craziness of cooking ,cleaning and listening to the kids argue about nonsense.
    • Haha cleaning totally counts! But I agree -- going to the gym can be such a great way to destress and have "me" time.
  • My favorite way to exercise is to go to the park with my son and walk around the trails. I get to spend time with him and workout also.
      • I wish I had a gym to go to lol but I was in aerobics in school for 2 years straight so I just use what I remember plus Wii fit plus is fun too.
  • Walking, because it's the easiest! But, running is great because I just head out from my front door for a quick 20-30 minutes and be back. No gym required, just good shoes.... Which this post reminds me of my beginning running tips from a beginner runner. Ha ha ha.
  • I just joined a new gym with early morning classes - that is helping me get going on keeping up with my exercising.
    • I always feel so much better when I work out in the morning! I just have such a hard time getting myself up. I need to get myself to more classes :)

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