An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Getting in Shape

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Have you taken a long break from exercising or never really exercised much? This beginner’s guide to getting in shape will show you how to start working out again!

I consider myself an absolute beginner because I’ve sadly never prioritized exercise for myself, haven’t exercised in years, and have an almost non-existent core. Add in my back and neck problems, and I’m at square one! If you can relate- then you’re in the right place.

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After having Little J, and gaining 50lbs+ during my pregnancy, I struggled a lot to find the time and energy to do much of anything related to myself.

I’m finally at a place where I can carve out a small amount of time to devote to exercising, and I’m determined to get in shape and make it stick this time. Come on everyone, we can do this!

Woman tying her shoes with the text of An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Getting in Shape.


Disclaimer: The author is not a doctor or medical professional and this information is not to be construed as medical advice. Always consult a doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Start moving! Any form of exercise is better than nothing. The more you move, the more you’ll get used to it and want to do it more often.

Whenever you have to stand or sit for a prolonged period of time, see if you can possibly work in some exercise. These minutes and extra steps add up during the day.

  • Washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or waiting in line at the DMV? March in place, do some high knees (just lift up your knees as high as you can when marching), stretch your legs by leaning side to side, do alternating butt-kickers (literally try to kick your own butt when you bend your leg), dance with or without music, do squats, or whatever you can think of that gets your blood pumping a bit.
  • Take a slightly longer way back to your office from a meeting, or find a building where you can take a flight of stairs that day.
  • If you attend your child’s sport/team practices or other lessons, walk around the field/court/building, etc. for some extra exercise and listen to some music, a podcast, an audiobook, or a stand-up comedy show for fun.
  • Set a timer at home and walk around your house for 5 minutes, then add a little more each time. Add in a few to-do’s at the same time if you’d like- carry the clean laundry into the kids’ room, let the dog out, or put the stack of papers in the office.
  • Sitting for a while? March or kick with your feet, or do arm lifts or arm circles. You can also do stretches while sitting, like these.

Mark off the days you do it on a calendar and see how long you can keep your activity streak going.

You don’t have to break a sweat, just do what you can to ease into it. These ideas are to help you get used to moving more until you feel ready to start a regular workout routine.

A collage of exercise equipment to help you get in shape!


Once you feel comfortable trying out a workout routine, make sure you have the right tools and equipment based on the type of workout you want to start with.

  • Place- Pick a place that’s comfortable for you to work out and where you’ll have the least amount of distraction. I really like working out at home with a video or walking in our neighborhood. For me it’s easier, more comfortable, and it saves me gym membership fees. If you have a gym or park nearby, and going out to exercise works better for you, give one of those a try.
  • Clothes & Shoes- Choose clothes and shoes you feel comfortable working out in and that fit properly for exercising. If you don’t like to go out, Amazon has an almost endless amount to choose from. These pants look super comfortable for working out!
  • Weights- If you want to start with weights, choose a small set of hand weights that you can grow with like this highly rated one. If you aren’t able to invest in those right now, buy a pair of weights that is the lowest weight you think you can comfortably use.

You can always DIY your weights and use bottles of water, water bottles filled with sand, or canned goods like beans to make your own weights until you get something else.

  • Mat- If you’re planning to do any workouts down on the floor or barefoot, you’ll eventually need to buy an exercise floor mat. Although I don’t think it’s something you’ll need to buy right away. If you have back or knee issues, I would recommend buying the thickest one you can afford to give you additional support- like this one.
  • Water bottle to keep you hydrated. My husband and I both use and love this CamelBak water bottle. I have the smaller size so that I will force myself to get up more, haha.
  • Find a beginner’s exercise routine, one you like to do that suits your abilities. That might sound crazy to you right now, “liking” an exercise routine. However if you hate doing floor exercises and that’s the routine you use, you won’t stick with it long.

Check online for free workouts on YouTube, free exercise apps, or any video streaming services that you have a membership with. Your local library may also have a wide selection of workout DVDs to check out for free!

  • Have children at home to keep busy? Exercising with kids around can be tough. Depending on the age(s) of your kids, you could try some of these ideas:
    • An older sibling, or spouse can do something with the younger kid(s).
    • Save certain toys or games for them to play with only during your work out time so that they’ll look forward to them.
    • Work out during snack time, nap time, reading time, or another time when your child will be occupied with something else.
    • Exercise with your kids or exercise as a family. Search on YouTube for mom and child workouts, mom and baby workouts, family workouts, family exercise, or find a fun exercise or dance video for your kids to do while you’re doing your own! My son really likes Cosmic Kids Yoga.

If you’re just starting out to get back in shape, or trying to learn how to start working out, I recommend low impact exercises like chair exercises or walking.

If you sit in a chair for most of the day like I do, you need to start out slow in order to not accidentally injure yourself.

Post-it notes that say Keep Going!


  • Consistency is Key!

I didn’t get out of shape overnight, so I can’t expect to get back in shape overnight either. Making some sort of exercise a daily habit is the only way to see any results.

Make it a priority- getting in shape is important because YOU and YOUR HEALTH are important! Schedule it on your calendar and make it routine.

  • Add a Friend or Join a Community

Working out with a friend, your family, or joining a community in person or online can help you stay encouraged and motivated.

  • Set Realistic Measurable Goals and Rewards

What’s your main motivation for exercising? What’s your “WHY”? The answer should be what drives you. If you want to lose weight, WHY? I want to lose weight so that I’ll be healthier, feel better in my clothes, have increased confidence and energy so that I can be more active with my family and have a happier, longer life. Sounds good right?

It’s easy to say, but often harder to actually accomplish without measurable goals. You need to make a plan with measurable goals and set small and large goals along the way. Pick motivating rewards (that aren’t food, by the way), for both small and large goals to help keep you focused.

Your goals could be anything– working up to a certain number of minutes a week of exercise, number of inches or pounds to lose, being able to fit into a piece of clothing more comfortably, or walk up a flight of stairs without feeling tired.

Whatever you want, be realistic or you’ll set yourself up for failure. If you need to adjust your goals later, that’s okay too. As long as you don’t quit, you’re succeeding!

Related Post: 6 Super Easy Ways to Drink More Water

  • Change It Up

Change it up by alternating your workouts so that you don’t get bored. You’ll also get a more full body workout!

  • Record Your Progress

Keep a record of when you exercise, even if it’s just a check mark on that day on your calendar.

If you’re exercising specifically to lose weight, remember: your weight fluctuates throughout the day, many things impact your weight (including muscle gain), and weighing everyday is not recommended. So don’t focus too much on this number.

Write down how you are feeling, your goals, and why you want to reach your goals. This will help you stay more focused on the days that you don’t feel as motivated. Use a journal or an app to help you keep track. Some apps even pay you to work out!

  • Rest!

Be sure to take a day of active rest during the week. You don’t want to wear yourself out and your body needs time to rest and recover. Try getting light to moderate exercise by going on a leisurely walk or swim, or doing some yoga.


Below are a few of my favorite workouts on YouTube. You can also just search for ones specific to your situation, or “low impact standing workout” or “chair exercises” for good beginner ones to try.

HASfit 20 Min Chair Exercises Sitting Down Workout

Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home 1.0 Mile Happy Walk

BodyFit By Amy’s 16 Minute Standing Low Impact Legs Workout–No Squats or Lunges!

FitnessBlender‘s Low Impact Cardio Workout for Beginners


Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home

Leslie is really fun, energetic, relatable, and walking couldn’t be easier!


They are encouraging and have TONS of workouts at all levels, including seated. My favorite aspect on the videos I use on this channel is that Claudia does the lower-intensity or modified version of the exercise while Coach Kozak does a more intense version. So I can choose what I feel like doing for each exercise!

Pahla Bowers

Pahla is fun, chatty and offers a wide variety of workouts, including seated workouts and more intermediate ones.


They have more intermediate to advanced workouts, but there are some standing, low-impact workouts that I’ve tried and really enjoyed.

It won’t be easy, but your health is worth it!

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  1. April 17, 2019 / 3:44 pm

    These are great ideas for beginners! I hadn’t thought about at-home workouts, but that’s a really great idea for people who don’t feel comfortable going to the gym.

    • Robin
      March 5, 2020 / 10:19 am

      Thanks! I am a total introvert, so the idea of going to the gym is scary to me, lol! I’m much more comfortable at home.

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