I want to start exercising, now what?

Summer is around the corner and everybody is getting ready to show off what they’ve been working on during winter. For those starting out, it’s time to get to work towards a healthy body and diet.

When you hear the word “exercise” you may think about a really buff person with a great body shape and a really healthy lifestyle. Well, to look like that you need to start at the beginning – with the basics.

Kristin Trout (21), a BA Sport Science student at Stellenbosch University from Cape Town, said: “The easiest way to start exercising is to start off at the right place. Getting (too) into it too quickly can give your body a shock which can do more harm than good.”

Abraham Jantjies (26), a fitness manager at Maties (Suspi) Gymnasium in Stellenbosch said: “For beginners starting out, they need a lot of attention on how to use the equipment at gym and how to build up the body manually.”

Karabo Abuki (23), a BA Sport Science with Psychology (fitness specialisation) student at Stellenbosch University from the Northern Cape said: “Start small with defined goals and make sure to change your mindset so that you can get into the right frame of mind. Be prepared for setbacks because life happens. Sometimes you’ll miss your exercise period and sometimes you’ll eat badly.”

Having a balanced diet

Healthy eating goes hand in hand with a good workout routine so, before you start exercising, be prepared to change your diet as well. “A good body will come when there is a balance between what you eat and how often you train,” said Abuki.

Creating a food diary to keep track of what you are eating could help indicate where certain nutritional changes need to be made, said Trout. “You should include a variety of vegetables in your diet, avoid hidden and added sugar in food, choose lower-fat sources and watch portion sizes of food,” said Jantjies.

“If you’ve stopped exercising and want to start again, you need to take it slow,” said Jantjies.

Depending on how hard one works to restart exercise, it will take about two months to get fit and beginners will take up to two to three months to get fit and healthy.

According to Jantjies the easiest way to start exercising is with running. It is a cardio activity, which will help you burn calories and lose weight, depending on how often you run.

The do’s and don’ts for beginners


  • Work out 3 times a week in 30-minute sessions to get your start-up plan going.
  • Drink water while exercising to stay hydrated.
  • Allow yourself rest.
  • When designing a program keep in mind that exercising is tough and hard work. To counter, figure out which exercises you enjoy most and follow that.
  • Be patient. You won’t see results after a few exercises.


  • Set unrealistic goals because this can cause frustration if they are not reached.
  • Over train. Sometimes less is more and training seven days a week does not guarantee results.
  • When you see no progress, try something new and don’t stick to the same program for too long.
  • Don’t just rely on the scale to trace results. That number on the scale is not representative of your body composition.
  • Don’t quit.

Exercise improves health and quality of life. However, know the level of your fitness before starting a program. Doing too much, too soon might be harmful to your cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) or even result in physical injury.  – Marsha Leitch