There's only one fitness rule you actually need to follow.

Starting a fitness program is hard. But for some it’s especially tough.

If the closest you’ve come to a spin class is back-peddling on your fitness resolution, if your favourite sport is sofa surfing – then it could take time to get into the swing of regular exercise.  So the last thing you need is people telling you all the things you ‘should’ do.

As someone who routinely avoided PE classes at school and who believes a fun run is a contradiction in terms, I can assure you it is possible to integrate fitness into your life. There’s hope! Here then are sixteen exercise rules you can totally, completely ignore:

1. You must exercise in the morning.
2. You must do interval training.
3. You must lift weights.
4. You must do cardio.
5. You must run.
6. You must walk.
7. You must join a gym.
8. You must train outdoors.
9. You must do group fitness classes.
10. You must join an online program.
11. You must do yoga.
12. You must do Pilates.
13. You must get a personal trainer.
14. You must do bootcamp.
15. You must do 30 minutes of exercise a day.
16. You must cross train.

None of these are hard and fast rules. Your exercise doesn’t even have to be hard and fast. It’s liberating! So there are many rules you can ignore, but here’s the one exercise rule you do have to obey:

Do whatever exercise you will actually do.

That’s it. As long as you do it, it’s the perfect exercise. Forget morning versus evening, indoor versus outdoor. Doesn’t matter if it’s in the gym, park, a brisk walk in a shopping centre, stairs in your building, whatever. There may be a type of exercise that will give better results than another. But not if you don’t do it. It’s better to succeed at what you can do, what you will do, than to fail at what you can’t or won’t. Find any exercise that you are happy to do and do it. That’s the perfect one for you. With that in mind, here are some tips you help you find an exercise you will do.

best workout tips
Embrace the sweat. Image: Getty

1. Give any new exercise a few tries.

Doing something new feels decidedly weird. The older we get, the weirder we feel and the less willing we are to tolerate discomfort. But using your body in a new way feels odd to everybody. Don’t let the initial discombobulation put you off. Know that your brain will adapt. If, after you’ve tried a few times, you’re still feeling miserable, then yeah, maybe that particular form of exercise is not for you. But give yourself the chance to find out.


2. Exercise for all the benefits (not just calories)

Exercise burns calories and so it can help to support my- I mean your wine and cheese habit.
But there’s more. For one thing, exercise is good for your sense of wellbeing. Just as feeling down can send you straight to a family block of chocolate comfort, feeling up can motivate you to make better food choices. For another, exercise gives you confidence.

Feeling stronger when you push a door open, fitter when you walk up stairs, seeing a hint of definition in your arm or thigh – all these boost your self-esteem. Exercise is motivating. It keeps you wanting to exercise, to make good dietary choices, to stay focused on your health and fitness goals. How much exercise is right for you depends on many individual factors. But remember – the motivation has much greater value than the calorie burn alone.

3. Love your sweat.

Some people don’t like to sweat, which can be an obstacle to exercise. But you can reframe your relationship with sweat and learn to feel pretty great about perspiring. How? Think of sweat as liquid calories. When you work out you’re expelling calories through your pores. That’s calories you won’t have to tuck into Spanx later on.

If you’re concerned about odour, then use a good deodorant. And no polyester workout wear! If you’re worried about sweat marks, then wear dark colours. Choose good quality gym or dance wear, which is very absorbent and washes well, too. If you can think of sweat as liquid calories then it might free you up to go harder in your workouts.

4. Keep doing any exercise you like.

The great thing about the exercise you do do (as opposed to any exercise someone says you
should do) is that over time this happens:

• you get better at it
• you get fitter
• your body starts to change
• you become more confident.

These nice feelings in turn often lead you to:

• exercise more often
• increase your intensity when you work out
• try new forms of exercise.

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All of which get you stronger and fitter and closer to making peace with your skinny jeans.
Compare the results above with the results that come from that perfect exercise you don’t like and never do:

• you don’t do it
• nothing changes
• now you also feel bad that you’ve failed, making you more resistant to the idea of exercise.

Don't worry about other people’s rules. It’s so much better to succeed at what you will do than to fail at what you won’t.

Michele Connolly is a psychologist and author of the new book 'How to Be Thin in a World of Chocolate'. After years of research into the fields of personality and happiness, Michelle is keen to share the secret to being both happy and healthy.