Most Americans struggle with sticking to a committed workout regimen, and the COVID-19 pandemic only made this bad habit 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 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.
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 allow your strength to diminish. Going easier 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’re not hurting yourself. When you’re getting back to the gym for the first time in months or years, scale back your workout intensity by at least 20%. As you get back into a regular workout routine, you can turn up the intensity as your body allows. The last thing you want is to hurt yourself—and delay your return to a regular fitness regimen even more.
Choose Low-Impact Workouts
Especially if you’ve experienced an injury, or if you’re over the age of 35, it’s important to consider your body’s needs as you start working out. While regular exercise may help build up bone density and reduce the risk of fitness injuries, 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 be smart about how you get back into weight lifting. Building strength exercises into your overall fitness routine is important for increasing muscle mass and raising your fitness level overall. It’s recommended that the average person do strength-building exercises at least 2 times a week for optimal fitness results. 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, consult your doctor and meet with a personal trainer to develop a smart strength regimen. 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 in weight training to your workouts.
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 or social calendars, and don’t cancel on yourself. 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 in all the ways. Join us!