How to Work Out

Five Methods:General KnowledgeExercising With Weights and CardioExercising With YogaTaking Up a Team SportGet Fit with Martial Arts

Working out, or exercising, is an important, but too-often neglected, element of modern life. Most people no longer work jobs that allow them to get the kind of continuous physical activity our distant hunter-gatherer ancestors enjoyed, but that doesn't mean we can't find at least some time to exercise and stay healthy. Read these steps to learn more about the many different workout options available today, and how to get started in them.

Method 1
General Knowledge

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    Pace yourself. People are as varied as grains of sand on the beach, but no matter what your current level of physical health, one maxim remains true: don't overexert your body on a regular basis. Whether you run triathlons or are just now starting to take a daily walk, the fact is that if you injure your muscles through overexertion, you'll have to take a break from exercising those muscles while they heal.
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    Push yourself. Though at first glance this seems to contradict the above point, the truth is, exercise won't do you very much good if you don't continue to test and push your boundaries. The trick is to do it safely and in a controlled manner. If you ran two miles yesterday and felt worn out later, don't try to run five miles today. Instead, find a level of exertion that leaves you feeling worked and a bit stiff the next day, and then try to slightly add on to the intensity of that level every couple of weeks.
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    Work out regularly. The more often you can find time for exercise, the better, generally speaking. Authorities recommend exercise seven days a week, but even three days a week is better than one. Whatever time you can set aside, do so.
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    Work as much of your body as you can. The more parts of your body receive exercise, the more you'll notice exercises' positive effects on your weight, muscle tone, mood, stress levels, sleeping patterns, and overall sense of well-being. As always, any exercise is good exercise, but some is better than others. Lifting free weights, for example, works more muscle groups than using targeted weightlifting machines. Try to mix in some exercise for every part of your body, if you can.
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    Take care of yourself. Maintaining the energy you need to exercise starts with getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet. You don't have to overhaul every aspect of your life just to start exercising, but if you want to feel energized, you'll need to at least make sure you get some good sleep every night and enough nutrients to not run your body ragged.
    • For example, your body processes lean proteins into energy better than fats, and it gets more benefits out of the vitamins in vegetables than in pills, since they're easier to break down and contain more complex compounds.

Method 2
Exercising With Weights and Cardio

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    Spend time on cardio exercise. Cardiovascular or “cardio” exercise is arguably the best single type of exercise in terms of how well it reduces your chances of dying young, since it works your lungs and heart above all else. The most basic types of cardio exercise are walking, jogging, and running, but many other types of exercise have a cardio component as well, including swimming, martial arts, and biking.
    • Try to work at vigorous cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes or more every day. If you can't manage 30 minutes, fifteen minutes is still better than nothing. Less than fifteen minutes has little effect on your health.
    • A cardio exercise machine, such as a treadmill or exercise bike, may be used in lieu of actually jogging or biking, if needed.
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    Lift weights on a schedule. As opposed to cardio exercise, weightlifting (also called resistance training) works the muscles in your body, such as those in your arms, legs, chest, and abdomen. Proper weightlifting is done by finding your maximum lift for a given exercise, then repeating a lift at about 80% of that weight to help build strength. Because you're asking a lot of your muscles whenever you lift weights, most experts agree that it's best to alternate your lifting, doing any particular lift no more than 4 days out of the week.
    • You can choose to do all your lifting on a given day, and skip it entirely the next, or you can focus on one area of your body one day and the other the next.
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    Work your core. Your core is your torso, particularly your lower back and stomach. This is the foundation of strength elsewhere in your body, so it should be a top priority in any fitness regimen that includes weight training. Standing lifts, such as clean lifts and overhead presses, will work your core, as will sit-up exercises and many others.
    • Your core is more than just your abs. Combine sit-ups, push-ups, planks, and other such simple exercises into a comprehensive core routine to work your entire torso for the best results.
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    Work your hips and legs. Next to your core, your legs are the pillars of your strength. Strong legs give you more stability and safety when doing other kinds of lifts, too.
    • Learn to do a back squat. This basic bar exercise is a great way to work many muscles in your body at once. It particularly works your hips and legs, but is also good for your core strength.
      • Start in a weight frame with the rack set at about chest level, and a bar with weights resting in the rack and across your shoulders, behind your head.
      • Look straight ahead and grip the bar firmly, with your hands farther apart than your shoulders.
      • Take one step back to remove the weight bar from the rack. With your feet flat and shoulder-width apart, take a deep breath and hold it as you rest the weight on your shoulders and bend your knees, lowering the bar smoothly.
      • Squat so that your knees and toes roughly line up, with the weight coming down onto your heels. Maintain a straight back and bend at the hips instead. Pause briefly at the bottom of the squat.
      • Push off through your heels and drive the weight back upward, exhaling as you do so. Return the bar to the rack.
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    Work your arms and shoulders. Though strong arms don't support strength elsewhere in the body, they're still useful and important to develop.
    • Learn to do a bench press. This is a classic upper torso and arm exercise that's great for building upper-body strength. You'll start by reclining back on a weight bench, with the weight bar in a rack above your head.
      • Lift the bar off the rack and center it over your upper chest, arms outstretched.
      • Take a deep breath, hold it, and smoothly lower the bar to your chest.
      • Pause just long enough to change direction, then exhale and smoothly lift the bar away from your chest until your elbows almost lock.
      • Pause for a second, then carefully return the bar to the rack.

Method 3
Exercising With Yoga

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    Understand the differences. Yoga isn't bad for your cardiovascular system by any means, but the exercise it offers is endurance training, not cardio exercise per se. That being said, yoga styles can vary widely between types. The general format of any yoga is to learn a position and attempt to master it while holding it for a sustained period of time. Most of the basic forms are the same across all types of yoga, but the specifics and more advanced forms are often different.
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    Take classes. Though yoga can be practiced in private, no amount of reading online or watching videos can take the place of a good instructor. He or she will teach you all the nuances of proper form, and give you important feedback on what your mistakes are so that you can fix them early on.
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    Use equipment. Yoga doesn't require anywhere near the level of equipment that weight training does, but there are still some useful items you'll want to have:
    • A yoga mat is a thin, soft mat that unrolls so that you can hold poses on it without sullying yourself on the floor (and vice versa). Most classes require that you use a yoga mat.
    • Yoga clothes can be anything that's comfortable, lightweight, and either flexible or loose enough to allow you to reach positions without being restricted by your clothing. Many people wear special yoga pants and a tank top, but you could also wear such things as bike shorts or well-fit jogging pants.
    • The yoga block is a small rectangular block designed to provide extra support for those still learning positions that are difficult for them. Most people find a yoga block useful for at least some of their positions. Yoga blocks may become unnecessary for advanced practitioners, but they're generally a wise investment.
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    Learn a few basic poses. The following few steps describe some of the simplest and most common poses in yoga. Of course, nothing beats an actual yoga teacher, but if you want to get some idea of what the exercise feels like, try these out at home first. Be sure not to strain or injure yourself. The first pose is the Mountain pose, a standing pose.
    • Stand straight, tall, and evenly balanced on both feet, with your arms at your sides and your feet close together.
    • Take a deep breath and lift your hands from your sides, keeping the palms facing each other, until they're all the way overhead. Reach upwards with your fingertips and hold.
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    Try the Bridge pose. This pose can put some strain on your lower back if you aren't careful, so practice it gently.
    • Lie back on your mat and scoot so that your knees are lifted over your heels. Your lower legs should be straight up and down from knee to heel. Your butt and upper legs will naturally lift off the ground.
    • Clasp your hands together under your lower back and push off of your flat arms, raising your hips until your thighs are roughly parallel with the floor.
      • If you're nervous about straining your back, you can put a few pillows or a yoga block underneath your tailbone for support.
    • Push your chest towards your chin, lifting the rest of your back except your shoulder blades off the mat. Hold the pose for one minute or so.
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    Give the Downward Dog position a try. This face-down position is a good general position, working many different parts of your body at once.
    • Go down on all fours like a toddler, with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips, lower legs trailing behind on the ground.
    • Walk your hands out a few inches past your shoulders, and press into the mat with outstretched fingers.
    • Curl your feet onto the floor as you push your hips up towards the ceiling slowly. With your feet about hip-width apart, keep lifting until your knees are only slightly bent, so that your body forms a triangle. Hold the position for 3 breaths.

Method 4
Taking Up a Team Sport

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    Learn the benefits. Sports are obviously good for you, but more specifically speaking, most team sports are good for your cardiovascular health, since they require running or sprinting on a regular basis. Team sports are also good for hand-eye coordination. In many cases, when you join a league (even a casual league), you will find resources available for you and your teammates to do some weightlifting, as well.
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    Choose a sport. Not all team sports are equal in terms of health benefits. At the top of the heap are sports like soccer, basketball, and hockey, that require most players to stay in motion constantly. Less common sports such as crew (rowing on a team), racquetball, and doubles tennis are also excellent in this regard. Below that are sports like baseball, curling, and cricket. Though these sports are very physical and still provide great exercise, they provide it in smaller segments, with downtime in between.
    • Given that all sports are good for you, it's probably best to choose one you personally enjoy over one that seems to be healthier.
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    Find a way to join a team. If you're in school, this is easy: even outside of varsity sports, there are often intramural leagues, casual games during lunch, or after-school programs available. As a working adult, the task of finding a team can be a bit more daunting. Check local fitness centers, such as your neighborhood YMCA, and ask about what leagues they offer or know about.
    • You'll usually have to sign up in advance to join an adult sports league before the season begins. Have more sports or other exercises in mind for when the season ends.
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    Learn the rules of the game. Referees and umpires are usually on hand to settle disputes, but it's still to your advantage to brush up on the rules of your chosen sport, even if you've played it recently. WikiHow is a great source for abbreviated rules of many popular team sports.
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    Show up for everything. Like any form of exercise, you'll get the most out of playing a sport if you keep at it regularly. In addition to practice sessions and games, try to find a partner or a group to exercise with on off days. This will help you get in even better shape while building bonds with your teammates.

Method 5
Get Fit with Martial Arts

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    Learn the benefits. Martial arts, which first became popular in the United States after World War 2, come in a staggering array of styles, with origins in nearly any country you can think of, each with a different set of standards, moves, and principles to master. However, nearly all of them rank among the best exercise you can get in terms of calorie burning.
    • Many martial arts, like wrestling and karate, provide an intense whole body workout; others, such as judo (the sporting form of jujitsu) and aikido, are less intense and should be supplemented with other types of exercise.
    • No matter which you choose, if you can handle extra exercise, it will provide benefits. This is why boxers, for example, also train with aerobic exercise and weightlifting, rather than just footwork and punching.
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    Learn about the different styles. There are practically as many types of martial art as there are other sports combined. All of them provide a good workout, so learn a bit more about the ones that sound interesting to you by doing research and visiting classes. Most instructors don't mind letting you sit in on a class; some even offer a free class to new students.
    • In east Asia, martial arts can be roughly divided between “internal” and “external,” or “soft” and “hard” martial arts. Internal arts, such as ba gua, favor circular motions and techniques that redirect force; external arts like karate favor angular motion and the direct application of force.
    • Europe is the birthplace of modern wrestling, kickboxing, and fencing, but also of a number of other, lesser-known martial arts, such as pankration (a Greek art) and bataireacht (Irish stick fighting).
    • Brazil is known for a groundwork-heavy variation of traditional Japanese jujitsu, called Brazilian jujitsu, that has become very popular in recent years due to its effectiveness in cage fighting and general self-defense. Brazil is also the home of capoeira, a flashy mix of dance and martial arts that relies on acrobatic body movements.
    • India, Russia, Israel, Indonesia, the Philippines, and many other countries also have their own unique martial arts to offer.
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    Find a trainer. Martial arts are almost exclusively taught in classes, because they require complex and precise physical movements that take a lot of repetition and practice to master. You might find yourself thinking you want to get into a relatively exotic fighting art, like the Malaysian art of tomoi, but then discover that there are no tomoi teachers in your area. It's important to find a martial art you can practice locally.
    • Check your local listings online or in the yellow pages for teachers offering classes in the styles you'd like to try.
    • Ask around local colleges or community colleges to find out about community education programs they might offer.
    • Again, test the waters before you commit. Don't pay for more than one session up front, and see if you can sit in on a class for free first. Paying for a month of lessons before you know what you're in for is a bad idea.
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    Stay focused on exercise. Different martial arts emphasize different things. Modern military martial art forms, such as Israeli Krav Maga, emphasize quick, crippling or lethal moves at close range, whereas older styles may focus on using weapons such as staves and swords that aren't commonly seen anymore. Still others, such as boxing, wrestling, and judo, are almost entirely centered on sporting competition. Whatever the case with your chosen art, remember: you're there to work out first and foremost. Try to settle on a martial art that provides you with a good, vigorous workout, and offers enough training sessions for you to get regular exercise.


  • The fitness community is somewhat divided on stretching, but it's generally agreed upon that you should at least engage in mild stretching before you work out. Vigorous stretching may actually lead to injuries during your workout, as it is tantamount to moderate exercise and can wear your muscles out before you begin.
  • This guide only covers a few of the possible ways you can work out. There are also dance classes of all kinds, gymnastics, outdoor recreational activities like hiking and kayaking, and so on and so forth. For people who are already moderately fit, there are tougher programs available, like Pilates and rock climbing classes. Keep your eyes open for a workout that fits your interests and lifestyle.
  • Whenever possible, have a partner. Working out is more fun with a partner, and safer to boot. Most weight rooms will have no trouble pairing you up with a partner; in group classes and team sports, you're likely to make acquaintances in class with whom you can partner for extra exercise.
  • Respect your instructor. He or she is a trained expert getting paid to help you succeed. If you can afford a personal trainer, he or she will even help guide you through solo workouts such as weightlifting and swimming. Take the advice that's given gratefully.


  • There's always the possibility that you'll injure yourself working out, even under ideal conditions. If something starts to cause you pain where there was no pain before, stop immediately and consult with a doctor or other fitness professional before you resume the activity that caused the pain. Stiffness after a workout is normal; pain is not.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water. When you exercise, you sweat, and when you sweat, you dehydrate. Sip rather than gulp during and just before a workout to avoid a sloshy stomach.

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Categories: Cardio Exercises | Building Muscle & Strength