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fitness guide

Getting Started on an Exercise Routine

Starting an exercise program for the first time can be very intimidating, especially if you are overweight or on the skinny side, but the good news is that everyone has to start at some stage and no one will think anything bad about you for starting. The steps in getting started are:

Setting Your goals

The most important first step is to set some realistic goals for yourself. Find a piece of paper and write them down and build your self up to achieving them. Don't expect to build a body worthy of the front cover of Mens Health in three months, it just isn't going to happen unless you spend every minute of your spare time at the gym. On the same note don't expect to lose all the extra weight in three months.

Some realistic goals for people starting out might be:

Don't set the goal so high that you can't achieve it or you will be disappointed and probably not continue with your exercise program. In setting your goals talk to other people at school, the gym or if you have one a personal trainer. You don't have to have a personal trainer but most gyms will give you an hour or two with a trainer to set a program for you that is tailored to your needs.

Find a Gym or choose a sport or exercise

Now that you have decided to take the plunge you need to do something about it and either find a gym or choose an exercise or sport to achieve your goals. Most schools, community centres and leisure centres have some sort of gym and this is a great place to start. When choosing a gym, try to find one that is close to were you go to school, work or live. In this way you won't have to make a huge effort to go there.

Gyms are not all the same and many of them will not suit you or your particular way of doing things. Try to find a gym that makes you feel comfortable, the staff are friendly and helpful and somewhere you will enjoy going to. If you are at school or college the gymnasiums are usually the best place to start.

If you don't want to go to a gym yet or want to try a sport of exercise choose one of the following as a good all round exercise:

All of these are great for a cardio workout and they can be really enjoyable too. I especially like rollerblading as a form of exercise, not that I'm all that good, but it is fun and get's you out in the open air.

Measure your state of health and fitness

You need to make a note of what your body and fitness is like before starting an exercise program, so you can measure the difference made through your exercise program. The most common ways to measure your state of health and fitness are:

Body Mass Index and Weight

Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the most accurate ways to determine when extra weight translates into health risks. BMI is a measure which takes into account a personís weight and height to gauge total body fat in adults. Someone with a BMI of 26 to 27 is about 20 percent overweight, which is generally believed to carry moderate health risks. A BMI of 30 and higher is considered obese. The higher the BMI, the greater the risk of developing additional health problems. You can use the BMI calculator here to work out where you fit into to the scale.

Body Fat

Your body stores fat as an insulator against temperature and a way of storing unused calories so that in times of little food your body can convert the fat to energy to make you operate. The best way of measuring your weight loss or even weight gain is to work out your body fat percentage. When one declares that they want to "lose weight", what they often mean is that they want to lose fat. So, now that you've had your body fat percentage measured, what does the number really mean?

First, your body fat percentage is simply the percentage of fat your body contains. If you are 150 pounds and 10% fat, it means that your body consists of 15 pounds fat and 135 pounds lean body mass (bone, muscle, organ tissue, blood and everything else).

A certain amount of fat is essential to bodily functions. Fat regulates body temperature, cushions and insulates organs and tissues and is the main form of the body's energy storage. The following table describes body fat ranges and their associated categories:

Classification Women Men

Essential Fat













32% plus

25% plus

You need some body fat to survive and everyone has some fat on their body. The guy that looks like he has rippling muscles pooping out everywhere will probably have about 4 - 6% body fat. The average male has about 20% body fat while the average women around has around 30%. Use the Fat Calculator to work out you potential body fat according to your height and weight and see where you fit in.


We all stand on the scales at some stage and look down in either horror or satisfaction. Looking at the scales to work out whether an exercise program is working or not is not always the best approach because muscle weighs much more than fat. But if you want to o work out whether your weight is in the "normal" range have a look at this table:

Suggested Weight For Adults

Weight in pounds

19 to 34 years

35 years and over


























































Source: National Research Council

Work Out to your optimum heart rate

The state of your heart is really important and it is a huge indicator of your overall fitness levels. The indicators which are used in fitness are your sedentary (resting) heart rate, the time it takes for your heart rate to recover after exercise Use the heart rate calculator to work out the optimum heart rate for resting, working out and fat burning.

Measuring your muscles and their growth

Get someone to take a tape measure and measure the size of your muscles before you have started a workout or exercise and keep a notes of these measurements. The most important measurements are:

Look in the mirror to see how your body changes

By far the best overall way to see your progress is to look in the mirror and study your body as you start and go along your fitness regime. An even better way, one that is suggested by the Body For Life program is to take a picture of yourself before you start in shorts. Hold up a newspaper with that day's date on it and then you will have a photographic record of your progress,

Get your first program developed

It's best to have someone who knows what they are doing sit down with you and put together a list of exercises and weights to do in your training program. This is by far the best way to actually reach your goals fast. Most good gyms will have someone that can do this with you. And don't forget that you need to change your program every couple of months or your body will get used to the same exercises and you will stop your gains!

Have someone show you the correct technique

If you are starting out an exercise program for the first time, you can't be expected to know how to use the weights and machines the correct way. Get someone to show you the correct form (also called technique). Just because you can emulate what the muscle god is doing with the barbell doesn't mean that he or you are doing it the right way.

The better form you have the more you will be working your muscles and the quicker you will see results. It takes some practice to get your form correct and it is not an easy thing to do!

Work out your diet

To achieve your goals, you will need to modify and think about what you eat. If you are serious about changing your body you need to stick to some common diet ideas. Read the section on diet and nutrition.