1 Do something active every day
Health and fitness bodies like the Health Promotion Board recommend 150 minutes of physical activity a week, to stay in optimal health.
How on earth is a sedentary person going to achieve that, you ask?
The good news: Lifestyle activities count too. If you move often enough, you may not even need a workout routine to clock those 150 minutes.
Break it down, and you'll find that 150 minutes a week works out to about 20 minutes a day. Not too bad, isn't it? Just think about adding more steps to your daily life.
Ditch the bus to walk, the lift for stairs, the robotic vacuum cleaner for manual sweeping and mopping. Instead of bumming on the couch at night, go for a walk in the park.
To keep tabs on your progress, wear a fitness tracker to log your daily steps, distance covered and calories burned. You'll be motivated to do more and more when you see those stats.
2 Hit the gym more often
How often you visit the gym after joining is a strong predictor of your future attendance.
Some researchers say that habits need 21 days to be cultivated. So if your last visit was one month ago, chances are high that you won't be going back to the gym.
Work stress, family commitments and personal health play a big part in influencing your decision to exercise. Knowing yourself and what motivates you will go a long way.
If you're more of a lone ranger, you're better off exercising at home, or a simple gym with equipment.
If you like sweating in a group and receiving instructions, group fitness classes like these will energise you.
Before committing to a gym, consider if it's near your home or workplace, and has the facilities that meet your needs.
Classes should be easy to book and available at convenient times for you.
Always ask for a free class trial or day pass to suss out the gym. When unsure, buy small class packages instead of a long-haul membership.
Increasingly, gyms are offering express lunchtime classes - more opportunities to sneak in a workout.
3 Dial up your workout intensity
If your idea of working out is a 30-minute jog on the treadmill at a constant, comfortable pace, it's time to switch things up. Research has consistently found high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to be more effective than steady-state workouts in burning fat and improving anaerobic fitness. HIIT involves alternating between intense bursts of activity with period of slower-paced activity or complete rest. The idea is to go all out - as fast or hard as you can - to reap the most benefits. You'll also spend much less time at the gym. HIIT classes usually last no more than 30 minutes.
If you already have a gym membership, sign up for the HIIT classes on non-consecutive days, starting from once a week. Let the instructor know if it's your first time. He or she will pay more attention to you, to make sure you're working out in proper form and at the right intensity.
You can incorporate HIIT in your daily workouts too. While running, aim to sprint for one minute, and brisk walk the next minute or two. When this starts to feel easy, increase the all-out period to two minutes, and/or cut your rest time. The key is to keep pushing yourself out of the comfort zone.
4 Vary your workouts
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a well-rounded fitness programme should include both aerobic and strength-training exercises.
It will stave off boredom, reduce your risk of injuries and make you a fitter person overall. Aerobic activities include running, cycling, swimming and stair-climbing; strength training involves using your body weight, free weights like dumbbells and kettlebells, resistance bands, medicine balls or weight machines.
If you're only running, do strength training on rest days. Yoga and pilates are good exercises to start. Both are big on core activation, so you won't just be toning your arms and legs, but the abs and back too.
For yogis, it's time to add some cardio activity to your routine. Start by brisk walking around your neighbourhood or from the bus stop back home. Increase your mileage and pick up the pace every week, and you'll find that jogging isn't as tough as it seems. Also consider cycling or swimming.
5 Try a new sport
As we get older, our senses turn duller. Our ability to absorb information and pick up new skills declines. Physical reflexes are poorer. Joints become stiffer. To slow down these undesirable ageing effects, consider learning a new sport. It will widen your perspectives and social circle, and also boost your zest for life.
Now's the best time to check out new classes, as the fitness scene heats up. Trampolining is fast gaining favour among the cardio crowd. Rock climbing too, with more climbing gyms opening recently.
Get stronger and nimbler by doing parkour or gymnastics at The Yard, a gymnastics-focused space. If you like being in water, give wakeboarding (or cable skiing) a shot at the newly opened Singapore Wake Park - you get the thrill of riding on water in a safe environment.
- This article first appeared in www.shape.com.sg