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Find the Best Workout for You

Ready to get moving? Here's expert advice on finding a fitness routine you'll want to do.
By Annabelle Robertson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD

Want to start exercising but hate the gym? Short on time or motivation? Or maybe you're feeling so out of shape that you don't know where to start?

There is hope, experts say. All you have to do is focus on exercising in a way that suits your personality, lifestyle, and fitness level.

If You Can't Stand the Gym

Never fear. You can still get in shape because movement -- the very thing needed for increased fitness -- can take place anywhere.

"Take a walk, ride a bike, or go for a hike," says Scott Lucett, director of education for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. "Or perform an exercise routine outdoors at a park using your own body weight." Ideas include pushups, squats, squat jumps, crunches, and planks.

Also consider outdoor group classes. They're taking place at parks all over the country, even during winter, and many invite children and babies to join in. If classes aren't your style, look into an adult recreational league. They're in every city and cover sports from soccer to ultimate Frisbee.

If You're Seriously Out of Shape

Take it slow and look for activities that will give you a more active lifestyle, says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.

"Exergames like Wii Fit are a good way to take someone who's a couch potato and give them a little exercise," Bryant says. "By doing something that might be a bit more fun, you might be able to sneak in a little dose of exercise. And the intensity tends to be low or moderate."

Look for simple opportunities to move during your daily routine. "Wear a pedometer and make it a goal to take more and more steps each day with the ultimate goal of getting up to 8,000 to 10,000 steps per day," Bryant says.

Lucett suggests beginners start with 10-minute walks -- 5 minutes out and 5 minutes back -- then gradually increase that by 2 or 3 minutes each week. "The next thing you know," Lucett says, "you'll be walking 30 minutes a day." He also says, though, that people who are seriously out of shape should get approval from their doctor before beginning any exercise program.

If You're Social

Group activities may be your best way to get in shape. Groups allow social butterflies to be around lots of people and enjoy camaraderie while also getting fit. Dancing is one of the most popular group activities.  

If you like the gym, consider Zumba, the newest group exercise craze. That will get you moving and burning calories to Latin dance rhythms. Other choices include country line dancing, swing, salsa, hip hop, or ballroom dancing. If you have two left feet -- and no intention of reforming -- consider a running, walking, cycling, or hiking club. You'll share a common theme for your exercise, and you'll also enjoy the social networking that takes place outside the workouts.

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