This 15-day fitness challenge for beginners is the answer to "where do I start?"
Just a small amount of daily activity can make every movement you make seem easier. “Every biological function is supported by physical strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance,” says Galina Denzel, a personal trainer and co-author of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well. The good news, she adds, is that it doesn’t take long to start to see results.
Enter our 15-day movement challenge: Commit to practicing a skill daily, each day building on the previous one. By the end you’ll be stronger, move more easily, and feel fitter and more confident than when you started.
Denzel helped us design this challenge so that at the end of the 15 days you’ll be able to meet these goals:
Strength goal: Do 10 Push-Ups
The push-up is a classic exercise that is a great way to work your upper body, core, and even your legs. You don’t have to get to a full push-up in 2 weeks—that may come with a little more time. Your goal here is to get to doing 10 modified push-ups (on your knees or a low counter) with good form.
Aerobic goal: Walk for 20 minutes
You know how to walk—here’s how to do it so that it improves your cardiovascular fitness so you feel stronger with each step.
Flexibility goal: Move easier
We all have different levels of flexibility, which is shaped over the years. Your goal here is to simply be able to move a little deeper into a stretch and feel less tight in your back, hips ,and legs.
DAY 1: Test your strength
Choose among one of three push-up versions:
Hands on floor under shoulders, legs extended behind you so your body is a straight line from your head and shoulders to your heels.
Hands on floor under shoulders, knees on floor so your body is a straight line from your head and shoulders to your knees.
Hands on a low counter, legs extended behind you so your body is a straight line from your head and shoulders to your heels.
Choose the exercise you can safely do at your own pace and rhythm. Set a timer for 1 minute. How many push-ups can you do in 1 minute with good form? Write down your number and place it in a visible location to compare in 2 weeks after you are done with the program.
DAY 2: Stretch and walk test
—Stretch: Do these three stretches to help target some of the most common tight spots and support your aerobic fitness. Hold each one for 1 minute.
Double calf stretch with chair:
Stand facing the seat of a sturdy chair, feet hip-distance apart and parallel to each other. Straighten knees and slowly bend forward at hips, moving only as far as you can without arching your back. Place hands on the seat as you hinge forward. You’ll feel the stretch along the back of your calves, hamstrings, and glutes.
Seated chair twist:
Sit toward the right side of the chair so your right shoulder is facing the back of the chair, with feet flat on the floor. Lightly grasp the right side of the chair back with both hands. Twist torso slowly to the right, keeping lower body in place. You’ll feel the stretch throughout your upper back. Hold 1 minute; repeat on the left side.
Number 4 stretch:
Sit tall near the edge of the chair, with feet on floor in front of you. Cross right ankle over left thigh and hold this position, feeling the stretch along the outside of right leg and glutes. Hold for 1 minute; switch legs.
—Walk test. Use your smartphone or a pedometer to measure how many steps you can take in 15 minutes at a comfortable pace. Write the number down to compare in 2 weeks.
DAY 3: Push-ups
Do the maximum number of push-ups you did on Day 1. Then rest for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then do 3 more push-ups.
DAY 4: Stretch and walk
— Hold each stretch from Day 2 for 1 minute
— Walk for 15 minutes. Walk at your normal pace for 5 minutes, then do the next 6 minutes alternating between 2 minutes fast (almost until you are out of breath) and 2 minutes moderate (breathing feels easier). Then cool down walking at normal pace for 4 minutes.
DAY 5: Push-ups and stretch
— Do push-ups for 1 minute. Write down the number and compare to your first day when you tested your strength.
— Hold each of the following stretches for 2 minutes: double calf stretch with chair and number 4 stretch
DAY 6: Walk 20 minutes
Walk for 20 minutes at a moderate pace. Note how many steps you walked in 20 minutes.
DAY 7: Push-ups
Do three sets of push-ups. Set 1: Do half of the maximum number of push-ups you can do. Set 2: After a short rest of 30 seconds or 1 minute, do the other half. Set 3: Do as many push-ups as you can before your form starts to suffer.
DAY 8: Stretch
Hold each of the following stretches for 2 minutes twice (or for 2 sets): seated chair twist and number 4 stretch
DAY 9: Walk 20 minutes
Walk for 10 minutes at a fast pace (you should be a little breathless). Cool down by walking at a moderate pace for 10 minutes.
DAY 10: Walk hills for 20 minutes
Walk up a hill for a minute, then slowly come down for a total of 15 minutes. Take 5 minutes to cool down. You can also do this on a treadmill using the incline setting or by walking up and down stairs.
DAY 11: Stretch
Hold each stretch from Day 2 for 2 minutes, do 2 sets
DAY 12: Push-ups
Do as many push-ups as you can in 1 minute. Rest and repeat one more time.
DAY 13: Walk 24 minutes
Go outside and spend 1 minute walking to warm up. Then do 5 intervals of walking fast for 2 minutes (briskly enough so you cannot maintain a conversation) and then 2 minutes at recovery speed (talking feels easier). Spend 3 more minutes cooling down.
DAY 14: Stretch
Hold each stretch from Day 2 for 2 minutes; do 3 sets
DAY 15: Push-ups and walking
— Do as many push-ups as you can in 1 minute. Write down your number and compare it to Day 1.
— Go outside and walk for 15 minutes at a faster pace. Count your steps and compare to where you started 2 weeks ago.
How did you do? If you’re not where you hoped, do it again.
Before starting any new exercise routine, make sure to check in with your doctor.