According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise can decrease your risk for heart disease, control your weight, strengthen your muscles and bones and improve your mood.

Many people have a desire to improve their health through diet and exercise, but it can be hard to know where to start. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. The best way to achieve this goal is to create a routine and stick to it.

A great starting point is to assess your current fitness level. Create an attainable fitness goal based on your current fitness level and work towards it. Set performance-based goals, like running faster, lifting heavier or cycling longer. Track your progress and continue to set new goals once the previous goals are met. This will help you see your progress and stay motivated.

Busy schedules are a common reason many find it difficult to stick to an exercise routine. Mudita Malhotra, MD, a primary care physician with Adventist Medical Group, suggests scheduling exercise the same way you schedule an appointment or a meeting. “Carve out a time of day to dedicate to exercising and commit to it,” she says.

Going full throttle into a fitness routine can cause you to burn out and lose motivation quickly. Dr. Malhotra recommends starting slowly and to have reasonable expectations.

“Have fun with your fitness routine and move at a pace that feels comfortable for you. You can sign up for a fitness class, power walk with an exercise buddy or go to the gym,” says Dr. Malhotra. “However you choose to stay active, remember consistency is the key to achieving your fitness goals.”

When starting your new fitness routine, set SMART goals that are:

  • Specific – Broad goals can be overwhelming. Be precise.
  • Measurable – Set a goal that you can easily track to see progress.
  • Achievable – Set the bar high, but be realistic. If you have never run before, maybe aim to run a mile and then a 5k before a marathon.
  • Relevant – Your goals should be important to you! Don’t just pick up the latest fitness fad – ask yourself why fitness is important to you.
  • Time Bound – Set a timeframe for your goal, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss your deadline.