Smart Fitness for Grown-Ups: A 10-Week Workout Routine

Yes, it is possible to develop an exercise habit in just a few months. We'll show you how.

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We know it's hard.

You're fully aware that you ought to develop a regular workout routine, you really mean to...and yet life gets away from you, another year goes by, and you still don't exercise. For those who would like to lay the groundwork for a sustainable, lifelong fitness habit, we're here to help with an easy-to-follow 10-week workout routine designed for grown-ups by Vonda Wright, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine and directs PRIMA: the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes. The workout program, adapted from her book Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age, will introduce you to the four components of a regular exercise routine, which address flexibility, aerobic fitness, load-carrying exercise, and equilibrium. It sounds like a lot, but the 10-week workout program introduces them gradually and allows you to integrate them into your life. We opted for this plan because it's sensible, comprehensive, and stands the test of time (i.e., no trendy equipment or fad approaches to getting in shape). And if you're under 40, don't worry; this workout routine will work well for you, too! It's for anyone who takes his or her health seriously and is in it for the long haul.

Our "Smart Fitness for Grown-Ups" plan officially launches on Monday, April 13, but you can start with Week One whenever your schedule allows. Most weeks, you'll be adding something new or modifying what you're doing, and by the end of the 10 weeks, (that'll be Sunday, June 21, for those of you who jump right in—not so coincidentally, the beginning of summer), you'll be comfortably settled into a workout program that meets the government's recommended physical activity guidelines. And you can keep it up for life.

In addition to the weekly calendar of current and past workouts, we have Dr. Wright's explanations of each component of the workout routine, a downloadable chart you can print and use to track your progress, a weekly blog related to the routine where you can share your thoughts, tips, and frustrations, and daily wellness tips. So check in frequently!

Before you get going, here are some first steps and tips from Dr. Wright.

1. Make sure you're healthy enough to exercise. You should check with your doctor before beginning this workout routine if you have a heart condition or have been told to do only certain physical activities, if you feel pain in your chest when you exercise or have had recent chest pain while not exercising, if you are dizzy enough to lose balance or consciousness, if you have a bone or joint problem that might be worsened by exercise, or if you're on drugs for blood pressure or a heart problem. Otherwise, you are most likely fine to start working out as long as you start slowly and build up gradually. Dr. Wright advises you to check with your doctor if you aren't sure of the answers to these questions or have any doubt about your health.

2. Make exercising nonnegotiable. Plan to do it. If your schedule simply won't allow a certain element—say, a load-carrying session—assigned to a particular day, make it up the next day or another time during the same week. Don't get into the habit of skipping workouts. Remember: There are very few excuses for not exercising!

3. Set yourself up for success. Making people aware of what you're doing or figuring out ways to motivate or reward yourself are only two of many ways to boost willpower.

4. Set a goal for yourself. What do you want to be able to do in 10 weeks that you can't do now? Walk for 45 minutes straight? Do five push-ups? Bend over and touch your toes?

Enjoy the 10-week workout routine, and if you have any questions along the way, E-mail onfitness@usnews.com. We'll answer any questions in our weekly blog.