A Beginner's Guide to Exercise for Metabolic Health

a beginner's guide to exercise for metabolic health

As we continue to learn more about the importance of metabolic health, it becomes increasingly clear that exercise is a crucial factor in maintaining it. Exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders. But where do you start if you're new to exercise? Here are some workout suggestions and tips to get started.

Where is the Best Place to Exercise? 

where is the best place to exercise

The best place to exercise depends upon your schedule and whether you prefer group exercise or you prefer your private sweat sessions. if you are brand new to exercise then start by sprinkling exercise throughout your day. Multiple small habit changes throughout the day can help to get you started and get your body used to moving more. This will make an organized exercise routine easier.

If you’re a social person then consider finding an exercise buddy. Having someone to exercise with can provide motivation and accountability. Plus, it's always more fun to work out with a friend! If you don't have a friend who is interested in exercising, consider joining a fitness class or group. This can be a great way to meet like-minded individuals who are also working towards improving their metabolic health. 

at home workouts

If you’re more of a lone wolf then try incorporating an exercise schedule and working physical activity into your routine. When we carve out time for ourselves and our health, we are more likely to follow through and complete the tasks. This can be as simple as adding an alert to your Google calendar or writing your workout days on the fridge. Pull up your favorite YouTube workout video, draw inspiration from Instagram creators, or simply go for a walk around the neighborhood.

How Much Should you Exercise? 

how much should I exercise

First, it's important to recognize that any form of movement is better than none. If you're just starting out, don't worry about doing an intense workout routine right away. Start by incorporating more movement into your daily routine. Take a walk after dinner, park further away from the store, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. These small changes can add up and help you build a foundation for a more active lifestyle.

The most important aspect is balance. Balance to your workout frequency, muscle groups, and intensity. For example, working out the same muscle group five days in a row is not going to be productive. Muscles need to be worked, then they need to be allowed to repair and grow. If we repeatedly work the exact same muscles in the exact same way with too high of a frequency and no base, we are likely to do more harm (aka injury) than good. Micro tears in muscle need time to grow. So, you have to rest them. Try alternating resistance training with strength days to start. This will help to build a base that will allow you to adequately recover, making your workouts as productive as possible. For the go-getters among us, yes, after building a solid foundation of physical fitness we can incorporate back-to-back high-intensity or heavy lifting days. However, we can discuss that in a future blog about progressing your workout. For now, let’s try to emphasize balancing rest days with exercise days. 

weekly workout plan for beginners

Part of this balance involves learning your body. Feeling a little sore is okay but if you can’t move the day after a workout then you should dial it back for the next exercise session. Ease yourself into exercise and make it enjoyable. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.  Start with moderate intensity then begin incorporating high intensity as you become more experienced. Strength train two or more days and hit all the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. An example of a program may look like this:

Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: 30-Minute resistance training routine (can be done at home or at a gym)
Wednesday: 30-Minute cardio: bike ride/swim/walk/circuit training/group class/etc.
Thursday: Rest day
Friday: 30-Minute cardio: bike ride/swim/walk/circuit training/group class/etc.
Saturday: 30-Minute resistance training routine (can be done at home or at a gym)
Sunday: 30-Minute cardio: hike/bike ride/swim/walk/circuit training/group class/running around with the kids/etc.

Sample Resistance Training Circuit Program: 

Let’s start with a quick suggestion on how to interpret the sample program below. When two exercises are grouped together (e.g. lunges and push-ups) perform three sets of each exercise with 10 repetitions each to start. So, you will do 10 lunges, 10 push-ups, 10 lunges, 10 push-ups, 10 lunges, 10 push-ups. Then, move onto the next group. By alternating upper and lower body you can give one muscle group a break while exercising a different body part. Time is a luxury so this will allow you to complete the workout as efficiently as possible.

resistance training plan for beginners
  • Group 1:
    • Lunges- 3 sets of 10 repetitions each leg
    • Push-ups- 3 sets of 10 repetitions
  • Group 2:
    • Deadbug- 3 sets of 10 repetitions each side
    • Single leg Romanian deadlift- 3 sets of 10 repetitions each leg
  • Group 3:
    • Row- 3 sets of 10 repetitions
    • Bicycle crunch- 3 sets of 10 repetitions each side

Does Exercise Really Help Metabolic Health? 

The short answer, absolutely! There is plenty of scientific research that repeatedly supports the benefits of exercise for metabolic health.  A 2018 study published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine found that exercise improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism in people with type 2 diabetes. Another study published in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity journal found that exercise increased the number of mitochondria in muscle cells, which can improve metabolic health.

It's not just high-intensity exercise that can have an impact on metabolic health. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise was enough to improve insulin sensitivity in overweight adults. This means that you don't have to spend hours in the gym to reap the benefits of exercise.

How do I Start an Exercise Routine? 

how to start working out

First, choose an activity that you enjoy. This could be anything from walking to dancing to weightlifting. The important thing is to find something that you look forward to doing, so that you are more likely to stick with it.

Next, set realistic goals for yourself. Don't expect to be able to run a marathon after just a few weeks of exercise. Instead, aim to increase your activity level gradually over time. Start with a small goal, like walking for 10 minutes every day, and then gradually increase the amount of time or intensity.

Finally, be patient with yourself. Building a habit takes time, and you may not see results right away. But if you stick with it, you will begin to notice improvements in your energy levels, mood, and overall health. A general guideline, allow at least one month before expecting to see significant physical changes from habitual exercise. For the best results try to incorporate a mix of strength training work with cardiovascular exercise. Both types of workouts will improve insulin sensitivity and improve metabolic rate. However, resistance training has been linked with improvements in longevity, whereas aerobic workouts are more prone to improving heart health. Whether you are new to exercise, want to add some variety to your routine, or want to resume exercise after some time away, we have got your covered. Scroll up to see our sample exercise program that incorporates both resistance training and cardiovascular exercise.

Cool Down Summary

In conclusion, exercise is an essential component of metabolic health. By incorporating more movement into your daily routine and finding an activity that you enjoy, you can improve your insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and lower your risk of metabolic disorders. Remember to set realistic goals for yourself and be patient – the benefits of exercise are worth the effort!


Author: Dr. Colleen Gulick