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Get Back in Shape

Even if you haven't worked out in a long time, this expert advice can help make fitness a rewarding part of your life again.

You once had a regular fitness routine. These days? Not so much. It happens to the best of us. But it's important to get back in the game as soon as possible. Experts agree that regular physical activity can help prevent chronic diseases and lengthen your life span, in addition to helping you look and feel better.

So whether you were sidelined by an injury, your schedule got too hectic, or you simply lost your motivation, you can get moving again—and have fun doing it. Check out these real-world tips from Nolan Hyland, a personal trainer and coach at Scott's Training Systems in Chandler, Ariz., and one of an elite group of master trainers certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Find something you like doing.
"For you to be successful, exercise has to be part of your life. And for it to be part of your life, it has to be enjoyable," says Hyland. Think about sports and activities that you loved as a kid. Maybe you biked around your neighborhood or played volleyball in college. Perhaps you've always been intrigued by martial arts or stand-up paddleboarding. "Give yourself permission to try something new," says Hyland. This is especially important if burnout or boredom drove you to give up in the first place.

Seek expert input.
You meet with an expert to do your taxes because the tax code can be tough to decipher. The same is true of exercise science. A fitness professional can help you avoid hype and gimmicks, as well as set realistic goals. If you're coming back after getting hurt, talk to a corrective exercise specialist or physical therapist. These pros can assess body-mechanics issues and make a plan to avoid future injuries.

Treat it like a party.
Don't have time to exercise? If you were invited to a fun event, you'd be sure to get there, says Hyland. "Really break down your schedule and look at what you're doing during the day," he suggests. Cut back on social media, skip one TV show, or swear off hitting the snooze button in the morning, and you'll free up 30 minutes or more.

Find your fitness tribe.
"When you make friends with people who have like-minded goals, it's going to strengthen your own goals," says Hyland. The more you connect with people in your yoga studio or running group, for instance, the more you'll look forward to working out with them.

Celebrate your early wins.
Visible results may take a little time to show up, so Hyland advises paying attention to how you feel rather than how you look. "When people stick with a good exercise routine for about a month, they typically start to find they're sleeping better and feel happier," says Hyland. Even if the scale isn't changing, be sure to count these changes as victories.

Always speak with your doctors before beginning an exercise program.