How To Get Fit If You Are Really Unfit: Five Proven Steps

How to get fit if you are really unfit - strip image

How can a very unfit person get fit?

It is true what they say, the first step is the hardest.

If you have recognised that your fitness (or lack thereof) is a problem and you are ready to do something about it, then we are here to guide you through the beginning of your journey.

In this post, we are going to discuss setting fitness goals and working towards them, as well as how to take those all-important first steps.

How do you get fit if you are really unfit?

Being fit can mean a lot of things to different people. There are no real secrets to getting back in shape if your current level of fitness doesn’t match up to where you want it to be. A combination of cardio exercise, strength training and a healthy diet can be used to get anyone back in shape or moving towards a better body.

Research has shown that you can start to see benefits from something like strength training in as little as two weeks.

Step 1: Ask yourself why you really want to get fit again

Bear with us here, this isn’t as woo woo as it sounds

Before you embark upon this lifestyle change, articulate what you want to achieve and why. Aiming to ‘get fit’ without defining what ‘fit’ is will not serve as a good goal. You need to know where you are heading to go in the right direction.

What was your tipping point in deciding to change your lifestyle? Maybe it was not being able to keep up with the kids or getting out of breath on the stairs. Or maybe it was something more serious, like a stern word from your doctor.

Use this to set your ultimate fitness goal and then work backwards to figure out where you want to be in a month, in 3 months, in 6 months etc.

unfit to fit goals

Write your goals down, then write about why you want to reach them. It does not have to be an essay, simply ballpoint some things like:

  • To feel healthier and better able to do everyday tasks
  • To protect my health
  • To prove to myself that I can
  • To feel less self-conscious

Step 2: Easy steps anyone can take to start getting back in shape

In terms of where to start, we always recommend a mixture of cardio and strength training.
  1. Start walking – Don’t overlook this one, even if it sounds obvious. If you are very unfit, you might find a short walk to be challenging. That is okay! Your starting point can be as simple as going for regular walks.
  2. Start with a step counter – If you have a step tracker (most phones have one), begin with 6,000 steps a day. This can be split into small walks taken multiple times a day. From here, you can build up your daily minimum (notice, we have said minimum, not goal) in increments of 500-1000 every week until you reach a respectable 10,000 or similar.
  3. Get some gym gear you like using – Once you have improved your cardio fitness through walking, you can try other exercises. It is a good idea to invest in a piece of fitness equipment at this point. Some good options include a spin bike or a cross-trainer.
  4. Start off with tiny amounts and build up – By having the equipment in the comfort and privacy of your home, you can use it for short bursts (e.g. 10 mins) and build yourself up to a longer set.
There is no need to work out to the point of exhaustion, start small and build your way up in increments of 2 minutes or by adding some extra resistance.


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Step 3: Rebuilding your fitness with strength training

If you have never lifted weights before then the prospect will seem daunting. A good place to start is with bodyweight exercises and a set of resistance bands.

Bodyweight exercises are those which use your body weight to train your muscles, e.g. squats. These can be intensified by rubber bands that add resistance to moves, making them more difficult. There are plenty of at-home workout tutorials on YouTube to guide you through.

Once you have built up your strength through this, you can move on to using equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, and even think about using bodyweight machines. There’s also some really good equipment for building your core strength.

Strength training often comes down to confidence and fear of failure. ‘I can’t do it’ is something we hear a lot, but, as long as you are lifting an appropriate weight, there is no reason why you would not be able to perform strength exercises.

Step 4: Be prepared to revise your plan!

unfit to fit plans
If you want to get fit again, make sure you keep track of what you’re doing and adjust your plan

Planning out what you are going to do is an essential part of fitness. However, sometimes you will need to go off-plan. If you find this is happening frequently, then take some time to revise your plan to check that it is not too challenging (or too easy).

This is a totally normal part of the process as it is very difficult to predict how our bodies will respond to a new training regime. We recommend planning your exercise in detail no more than a week or two in advance. After that, just roughly sketch out the fitness goals you are aiming for.

Step 5: If you want to get fit again, don’t neglect your rest days

When you are going from very little activity to moderate activity, you might feel like you deserve rest days or that your body needs a break.

Sorry, but this is not the case!

Rest days are for intense training so that people do not overexert themselves. The body is not built to sit still all day, so you do not need a rest day if it involves doing nothing. You need to move every day, for the sake of your health.

Final recap: Getting fit when you’re not in great shape now

You can do this. You can start rebuilding your fitness at any age and see benefits almost immediately. Even if you’re completely out of shape now, there are some small steps (literally, in this case) that you can take today. Don’t wait until tomorrow; start your training as soon as you’ve finished this guide.

  1. Figure out your why as it will keep you going when you want to give up.
  2. Start with walking, which has many health benefits.
  3. Add some strength training into your training
  4. Keep a plan and revise it if something is too hard, or too easy
  5. Rebuild your fitness faster by taking proper rest days and getting plenty of sleep

Good luck and happy training!


Reference and Further Reading:

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?

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