You've decided it's time to start exercising. Congratulations! You've taken the first step on your way to a new and improved body and mind
"Exercise is the magic pill, " says Michael R. Bracko, EdD, FACSM, chairman of the American College of Sports Medicine's Consumer Information Committee. "Exercise can literally cure diseases like some forms of heart disease. Exercise has been implicated in helping people prevent or recover from some forms of cancer. Exercise helps people with arthritis. Exercise helps people prevent and reverse depression."
Of course, there's a catch. You need to get - and keep - moving if you want to cash in on the benefits. This doesn't necessarily mean following a strict, time-consuming regimen at the gym - although that can certainly reap benefits. The truth is you can get rewards from many different types and levels of exercise.
"Any little increment of physical activity is going to be a great boost to weight loss and feeling better, " says Rita Redberg, MSc, chairwoman of the American Heart Association's Scientific Advisory Board for the Choose to Move program.
Your exercise options are numerous, including walking, dancing, gardening, biking - even doing household chores, says Redberg. The important thing is to choose activities you enjoy, she says. That will increase your chances of making it a habit.
And how much exercise should you do? For heart health, the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, on most days of the week.
Yet "if you're getting less than that, you're still going to see benefits, " says Redberg. "It's not like if you can't do 30 minutes, you shouldn't do anything, because you're definitely going to see benefits even at 5 or 10 minutes of moving around."
Ready to get started? Health and fitness experts helped WebMD compile this beginner's guide to exercise, including definitions of some common exercise terms, sample workouts, and recommendations on home exercise equipment.