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As 2015 draws to a close, many of us may be reflecting on this past year’s fitness goals. However, there is no time like right now, to implement a program that you will enjoy and stick with. Setting unrealistic goals seems to be one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to incorporating regular exercise into our daily schedules. Like most things, a huge key to success lies in coming up with a sound plan of action. Here’s a checklist for ensuring that your attempt at incorporating regular exercise into your busy life will be successful:

Assess your current fitness level

This should first involve a visit to your health care provider. A complete physical examination is the ideal way to establish whether or not certain activities will pose a risk. It’s also effective for evaluating which types of exercise will be the most beneficial. The typical areas to check include blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight and body fat or BMI, heart rate, balance and handgrip. Those with any issues such as joint pain, arthritis or shortness of breath, can discuss low-impact activities that will be better for them to begin with. Walking, water aerobics, swimming and gentle yoga are all excellent places to start. The Mayo Clinic suggests, “working out at least 30 minutes five times a week and mixing activities for cardiovascular health, strengthening muscles, and stretching.”

Seek professional guidance

Depending on the combination of activities you are considering, a little extra help from a pro is critical for making sure that you are on the right track. A personal trainer or yoga instructor can show you the right way to exercise safely and create a plan that will work for you. A pro can also assess your fitness level by checking your endurance, strength, and flexibility among other aspects, and design a workout routine that will help build on your strengths and improve your weaknesses.

Create a reasonable, fun plan

Choose a few activities that you can do five days a week for a minimum of thirty minutes. Including a nice mix such as weights, yoga, and walking covers the physical bases and keeps things interesting and fun! To ensure your success, schedule your activities in advance and that way, they will automatically become as routine as brushing your teeth. Also, whenever possible, try to fulfil some of your exercise goals outside. There is nothing like a little fresh air to keep you motivated!

Set goals and monitor your progress

Whether you record your activities on paper, with a Fitbit or smartphone app, or in a spreadsheet, make sure that you do monitor your progress. Keeping up with how you are doing is an excellent way to maintain your inspiration. Remember that “slow and steady wins the race” and that you are doing this for you, it’s not a competition! Sometimes, working with a group of like-minded individuals is an effective tactic for staying on course. That’s why so many prefer to accomplish their fitness goals in classes, groups or on teams. Along with the social benefits, working out with others adds an element of fun!

Keep it up

When your activities of choice become part of your routine; avoid the temptation to become complacent. Instead, mix it up and reach new heights by setting loftier goals. Prior to this, check with a pro to hear their suggestions as to what path would be best for taking it to the next level. For example, you may want to consider a 5K, a bikeathon, or yoga retreat. In addition to pushing yourself a little, setting goals keeps things interesting and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

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