National director of group fitness for Equinox Fitness Clubs
Espel: I ask them, "How many times a week can you realistically participate in 20 to 30 minutes of exercise?" Almost everyone says they can do it five or six days. I'll say, "Wow, back up a little. Let's look at your lifestyle—what's a typical day for you?" My job is to help them make a reasonable commitment to fitness so that when their life gets even slightly turned around by the unexpected, they still have time in their week to squeeze in physical activity.
How does someone get started?
Espel: It's essential to have social support—your husband, mom, friend—someone you feel comfortable with who will be there to encourage you when you are tempted to fall off your routine and who can even be your workout partner. You're less likely to cancel your workouts if you know your friend is going to be standing there waiting for you. I also recommend three to five sessions with a certified personal trainer. People often fail because they do not have a plan. A trainer can give you a safe, manageable, personalized routine. You can work out on your own and schedule periodic checkups with your trainer to ensure proper technique, adjust the amount of weight, and learn when to increase the number of reps and sets you do.
What kind of activity do you suggest people start with?
Espel: Anything! It could be as simple as walking the dog around the block once or twice a day. I generally recommend walking—everyone can do it, it's a full-body exercise, it doesn't cost anything, and it can be done anywhere. Do it as many days as you can—even ten minutes one to three times a day can help. Ultimately, people should work up to doing something moderately intense three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes.