3 Strategies for Starting an Exercise Routine

Written by: Bailey Little, M.Ed.
3 Strategies for Starting an Exercise Routine

If you are anything like me, you’d rather stay snuggled up on the couch with your dog than go outside and exercise. Especially when the weather turns cold, it is much more enjoyable to curl up with a book or movie than to put on your tennis shoes and go for a walk.

We’re all familiar with the general benefits of exercise: improved mood and energy levels, better sleep, reduced stress and anxiety levels. You may have even heard about studies that show that exercise at a certain level can treat symptoms of depression comparably to an antidepressant. Despite knowing the immense benefits it provides, most of us still struggle to incorporate regular exercise into our lives. Let’s discuss some strategies to use to get us off the couch and onto the pavement:

  • Find an exercise buddy, in person or virtually. Whether it’s inviting a friend for a walk on the Greenway together or virtually training for a 10k with a friend in another state using an app like Strava, the accountability and encouragement from an exercise buddy is a great way to build consistency in your routine.
  • Set attainable goals. It is tempting to set extravagant goals like “I will exercise for 1 hour every day,” but it is easy to get discouraged when you can’t reach these goals right away. Accomplishing a smaller goal like “I will exercise for 30 minutes 3 times this week” provides the satisfaction of completing a goal and increases motivation to continue working toward your next goal.
  • Discover what type of exercise you like and do that! The best kind of exercise is the kind that you will actually do. Whether that’s walking the dog, playing tennis or pickleball, practicing yoga, or going for a hike, anything that gets your body moving is helpful for maintaining mental health.

Personally, these strategies have helped me start a running routine. I will never be the fastest person in the race, but I continue signing up for them to hold myself accountable for staying consistent. I found a park that I enjoy running in, a friend that I virtually share all my runs with, and a routine for reflecting on the benefits to my mood and energy levels that I notice when I stay consistent. I also practice self-compassion on those days where the couch is too compelling and I can’t get myself outside.

Every time I put on my tennis shoes and get outside, I count it as a win. Find out what your “win” looks like and start keeping track. Consistency is key, starting over is always allowed, and don’t forget to celebrate every single step.