Fitness 101: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Exercise

How to get started with an exercise program - and stick with it.

By Dulce Zamora
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

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."

And there's no arguing that exercise can help most people lose weight, as well as look more toned and trim.

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.