Get in shape using your favorite physical activities.
Free workout plans can be your gateway to health and physical fitness. All you need to do is commit to an active lifestyle. The #1 difference between fit people and those who are out of shape is consistency, not the specific type of workout routine they follow. So you can include the physical activities you enjoy in your workout plans and still get great results!
The 12 week guide below gradually builds up to the amount of activity your body needs for good health.
Free workout plans in 4 steps
#1 Pick a starting point that matches your current fitness level.
Beginners start at Week 1
If you are new to exercise, just getting back in shape after being inactive, or age 55+, consider starting at week 1. You can start this program with just 15 minutes of exercise per day. Use "light to moderate exercise" as shown. Add 5 minutes to your exercise time for week 2, and 5 more for week 3.
Trying to get back in shape? Choose Week 4
If you have been off and on with your routine, but have maintained some level of conditioning, start here. You need to be able to exercise at a more vigorous level for at least 25 minutes (as you see on the chart above). Add 2-3 minutes of exercise time each week through week 8. If you choose a "light effort" activity on a given day, add 10-15 minutes to your total exercise time.
Doing well, but not quite there yet? Go for Week 8
If you have been exercising consistently, start at week 8 or the week that best matches your current routine. Aim to gradually progress to 45 minutes of vigorous exercise for 6 days per week. For a fitness boost, try short bursts of hard effort (interval training) during 2 workouts per week (not on consecutive days).
#2 Choose workouts & activities that fit your lifestyle.
Metabolic Equivalent gives you many ideas, including all types of sports, active hobbies, and home activities. Using this reference, you can see how different physical activities compare in intensity and calories burned, and you'll be able to pick exercise that is a good match for your ability level.
For example, activities like vigorous cleaning, gardening, or playing with pets and children will fit well into a beginner's routine. Even as you become more fit you can continue to include these kinds of activities in your free workout plans. Just spend extra time doing them, as shown on the chart above.
#3 Work hard enough to make progress without overdoing it.
Choosing the right level of effort allows you to make steady progress without overwhelming your muscles and joints. If you are a beginner, for example, you want to feel like you are working, but on the other hand you should not be gasping for air during the workout. How can you know for sure, then, if you're going too easy or trying too hard?
These free exercise tips will show you how to tell whether your effort is light, moderate, vigorous or hard as you workout. There is a helpful 1-10 exercise effort scale on the page.
Beginners--Weeks 1-3: Maintain a moderate effort (4-5/10) for your workouts and a vigorous effort (6-7/10) for any strength training exercises you include in your routine. Use brief rest breaks after each strengthening exercise. Limit your effort during this phase so that you can concentrate on good exercise technique. The lighter effort will also give your body a chance to get used to the new physical activity.
Getting back in shape--Weeks 4-8: Maintain a moderate to vigorous effort for most of your workouts (5-6/10), and a hard effort for your strength training exercises (7-8/10). You will achieve significantly greater health benefits as you complete this phase.
Almost there--Weeks 9-12: For 4 days per week, maintain a moderate to vigorous effort for your workouts (5-6/10). On 2 of the days, try increasing your effort to hard (7/10). Your strength training effort is at 8-9/10. Once you reach week 12, you'll have a new lifestyle that is proven to significantly reduce the risk of premature death and serious health problems.
#4 Support your training with rest and a healthy diet.
Health and physical fitness is not just about exercise. You will benefit the most from your free workout plans by including a healthy diet and being sure to get enough sleep each day. See this article on nutrition, and learn more about the effects of sleep deprivation.
Now your free workout plans are beginning to take shape! Stay tuned for more exercise ideas and workouts!