How to Get Back into Fitness After A Long Break

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Most Americans struggle with sticking to a committed workout regimen, and the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse. In fact, according to Time Magazine, only around 25% of Americans today are getting the federally recommended amount of exercise in each week. Even after just a few weeks’ break, we can see losses in cardio and strength. If you’ve fallen out of your exercise routine, don’t despair! If you can establish a regular workout regimen and build in intensity and duration over the course of a few months, you’ll start to see results—and more importantly, you’ll feel healthier and stronger.  Before you begin any new exercise program, be sure to consult with your doctor or health care provider and follow their individualized recommendations, which may include working with a fitness professional.

Related: 14 Ways to Move More Throughout The Day

Here’s how to get back into fitness after a long break.

Go Easier On Yourself

When you’ve taken a long—or even a short—break from your regular fitness routine, you’ll likely need to reassess your abilities and your overall strength. You may have been a star athlete in college or high school, but that was a while ago, and even taking a break for just a few weeks can cause your muscle strength and endurance to diminish. 

Going easy on yourself is nothing to be ashamed of—in fact, starting with shorter, less intense periods of exercise, with plenty of breaks scheduled in, is important for ensuring that you protect yourself from injury. When you’re getting back to the gym for the first time in months or years, it’s especially important to listen to your body and don’t overdo it. As you get back into a regular workout routine, you can turn up the intensity as your body allows. 

Choose Low-Impact Workouts

No matter your age or fitness level, it’s important to consider your body’s needs as you start working out again.  If you’re over the age of 35 or it’s been a long time since you worked out, it can help to start with low-impact workouts like swimming, biking, or walking.

Read more: Low-Impact vs. High-Impact Workouts

Build Up Your Strength—Slowly

When it comes to strength-building, you’ll want to learn about how to incorporate  weight training into your exercise program. Building strength exercises into your overall fitness routine is important for increasing muscle mass and raising your fitness level overall. Most healthy individuals can begin with strength exercises that use their own body weight, like wall push-ups, squats, lunges, and crunches. If you’re concerned that your body weight is too heavy for bodyweight exercises or you’ve never done weight bearing exercise before, consult your doctor and meet with a personal trainer to develop a smart strength-training regimen.

Routines typically start with 12 to 15 reps of each exercise (on each side), and build to longer or additional sets of reps. As you notice your strength increasing, you can start to add  weight training into your workouts. Be patient with yourself and go at your own pace. It’s generally recommended that strength-building exercises are performed at least 2 times per week.

Read more: Build Muscle Mass and Protect Bone Density as You Age

Get Into A Fitness Routine

Once you’ve decided to start working out again, you’ll want to make sure you’re prioritizing your workout times. Try to hit the gym or go for a walk at least three times a week. It’s important to stick with your workout routine. Try scheduling your workouts by blocking off time on your work and social calendars, and do your best not  to cancel. If you’re having difficulty sticking with your plans, ask a friend or family member to become a fitness accountability buddy. You can even try using a fitness tracker app to log your progress, or take a selfie every time you make it to the gym. No matter which strategy you use, just make sure you stick to it!

These are just a few tips for how to get back into a fitness routine safely and smartly. For more ways to get heart healthy, why not sign up for our monthly Healthy Heart Challenge? We share lots of fun ways to get in shape, eat better, and take care of your heart. Join us!

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