What you need to know before starting a new workout

You hear about all sorts of workouts you could try – but where do you start? First off, if you'd like to try a new workout, set realistic goals for getting started. That way, you don't do too much too soon. On the other hand, you don't want to do so little that you don't see or feel any results and lose your motivation. To find that sweet spot that will keep you motivated, consider the F.I.T.T. Principle.

Frequency: Start slowly and work toward a goal of exercising at least 3 days per week with no more than 2 consecutive days without exercise.

Intensity: This is how hard you're pushing yourself when you exercise. If you are not already an active person, start at low-to-moderate intensity and gradually build your stamina. Moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking and leisurely swimming.

Time: Start with what you can and work your way up toward a goal of 150 to 300 minutes of exercise per week. You can do this in 30- or 60-minute sessions or break it up into shorter intervals of 10 to 15 minutes each.

Type: Exercise can be aerobic – rhythmic, repeated activity that gets your heart pumping – or resistance training, using weights or your own body weight to build muscle.

What's most important is that you find ways to move more that you really enjoy and that you think you'll stick to on most days. You should also speak with your doctor before beginning a new fitness regimen. Not all types of exercise are right for all people, and people with medical conditions must take special caution.

Pilates: What is it, and is it right for me?

What is Pilates? Pilates, named for its creator Joseph Pilates, is a low-impact strength-training workout that emphasizes precise use of the muscles of the abdominals, lower back, hips, and thighs. Pilates is not an aerobic workout. Though you may break a sweat from exertion, Pilates should be considered a strength training workout and should be supplemented by other aerobic activities.

What can I expect from a Pilates class? You can choose to take group classes or individual instruction sessions. Classes and sessions are done either on a mat, like in yoga, or on an assistive apparatus. These apparatuses – with names like Reformer and Cadillac – provide adjustable resistance and help move you into precise positions. Pilates sessions often feature stretching and sets of repetitive strength training exercises. The sessions can be easily adapted to individual ability – from gentle stretching and stability exercises for beginners to more challenging workouts for advanced practitioners.

How can I benefit from Pilates? If you practice Pilates consistently and properly, you're likely to see and feel benefits, like increased core strength and stability; improved posture, flexibility, and body awareness; and a reduction in back pain.

Are there any precautions about Pilates that I should know about? Pilates can be strenuous. Muscle soreness is common afterwards. It is advised that beginners work first with an experienced, certified Pilates instructor in order to achieve proper alignment and prevent injury. If you have not exercised regularly, are pregnant, or have any health concerns, you should check with your health care provider before starting a Pilates routine.

Spin class: What is it, and is it right for me?

What is a spin class? A spin class – sometimes called "Spinning" – is a group indoor cycling class. In a spin class, you use a stationary bike to follow a guided routine that provides an intense aerobic workout.

What can I expect from a spin class? During an indoor cycling class, you can expect to work up a sweat and get your blood pumping. Classes tend to be fast-paced and loud. Music plays, and the instructor rides their own stationary bike in order to demonstrate the moves and preferred pacing. Pace will vary from slower, steadier warm-ups to high-intensity sprints of pedaling as fast as you can. Resistance may also change throughout the class, as the cycle's settings simulate straightaways and hills.

How can I benefit from taking spin classes? Spin classes provide an intense cardiovascular workout, elevating your heart rate for a sustained amount of time. This type of workout done regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure and your levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol. An indoor cycling class will also challenge and improve your muscular endurance and strength. And it is estimated that you can burn 400 to 600 calories during a 45-minute class.

Are there any precautions about spin classes that I should know about? Indoor cycling may be an intense workout, but it is also relatively low impact. This means that if done correctly – and if you wear proper footwear – you are unlikely to injure your joints during indoor cycling workouts. That said, if you have not exercised regularly, are pregnant, or have any health concerns, you should check with your health care provider before starting an indoor cycling routine.

Zumba: What is it, and is it right for me?

What is Zumba? Zumba is a group fitness class that combines dance techniques with interval and resistance training to create a high-energy workout in a fun, party-like atmosphere.

What can I expect from a Zumba class? Join a Zumba class, and you'll feel like you've joined a party – a noisy, sweaty, good-natured party. The usually 60-minute-long class will feature loud, powerful music to get you moving and an instructor demonstrating energetic but easy-to-learn dance routines. It may take a few times through a routine to catch on to all of the moves. The key is to let yourself go – move, try new things, and smile and laugh when you miss a step or dance off the beat. Take comfort in the fact that everyone is too busy trying to keep up to notice if you're not perfectly in step!

How can I benefit from taking Zumba classes? Zumba is a fast-paced aerobic workout in which you dance your way through a series of different songs, each with a unique set of dance moves. As you dance, you're doing interval and resistance training – all using the weight and movement of your own body. If you participate in Zumba classes regularly, you'll boost your cardiovascular and respiratory fitness, improve your muscle strength and endurance, and challenge your balance and flexibility.

Are there any precautions about Zumba classes that I should know about? Choose the right shoes to wear to Zumba class. Leave the thick-soled, full-tread running shoes at home and opt for thinner-soled sneaker or cross-training shoes with some ankle support but not a lot of tread. This helps you keep up with the pivots and side-to-side movements and prevent knee injuries. Dress in comfortable clothes that you can move and stretch in, and drink plenty of water throughout the class.

If it's your first class, find a spot in the middle of the class toward the front so you can see the instructor and those around you. And let your instructor know you're new to Zumba or if you have any injuries, in case there are any modifications or tips your instructor may be able to offer. Also, if you have not exercised regularly, are pregnant, or have any health concerns, you should check with your health care provider before starting Zumba class.