So you're ready to take your fitness to the next level. But have you really thought it through? What exactly are you going to do? What’s realistic? How much is too much? And, most importantly, what’s the secret to sticking with it?

Every year, thousands of well-meaning rookies join gyms and download fitness apps with their resolutions at the ready. By the end of 30 days, almost half of them will be back to square one, defeated, discouraged and no closer to a healthier life.

It turns out that fitness is just like any addiction – it all starts with a small dose. “Too many people make the mistake of leaping into exercise when baby steps are what’s needed,” says Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research. He suggests any newbie exerciser keeps these three things firmly front of mind:

  • Start slow – Don’t push your body too soon, stop your workout when things are feeling tough
  • Build gradually – Aim towards staying for a full workout as your fitness builds
  • Mix it up – Include a mix of strength, cardio and flexibility training

A slow start, building gradually and incorporating variety is an approach that’s scientifically proven to work.

Get Fit Together, a study conducted by Penn State University, followed 25 sedentary adults through a 30-week program of LES MILLS™ workouts including a mix of cardio, strength and flexibility.

The group saw awesome results – so awesome that they extended their life spans by an average of 3.6 years. You can read more about the results here.

But the really interesting news was that over the 30 week study, 20 out of 25 study participants never missed a workout – a compliance rate of 98.8 per cent – almost unheard of in studies of this type.

Despite each of these programs being highly engaging, the real key was the gradual way in which the exercisers adapted to their new routine. An initial six-week period encouraged them to 'dip their toes' into fitness before ramping up the intensity with a full six-day-a-week exercise schedule.

So instead of being overwhelmed by it all, feeling sore from overworking unfit muscles and giving up, they actually enjoyed it.

Using these research insights (and a wealth of wider fitness and motivation expertise) the Les Mills team developed the SMART START program – a six-week guide to successfully taking your fitness to the next level.

Get the SMART START workout schedule here.

Remember, the first step to fitness isn’t a leap. The key is to start slow, keep it fresh but most importantly, have fun and the results should follow!

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