Man lifting two dumbbells

Ezequiel Giménez/Stocksy

Want to Work Out But Have No Clue How? Here Are the Exercises You Need to Get Started

There's never been a better time to start than now.

By Amy Marturana WinderlApril 9, 2024


Starting a new exercise routine? Focus on making it as simple and sustainable as possible. It’s easy to get bogged down by the surplus of fitness information, but some of the best workouts for beginners are actually incredibly straightforward. All you need are a few go-to exercises and the commitment to keep showing up.

In this article, experts including Peloton instructor Jermaine Johnson cover the basics of working out, offer beginners advice on how to find the right routine to help them achieve their goals, and share some of their favorite exercises.

Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Start Working Out

Showing up for your first workout is an accomplishment in itself. That’s true whether you do it today, next week, or in six months. However, the sooner you start, the sooner your body builds the strength and endurance necessary to make your workouts feel more manageable and rewarding.

“It’s hard to do something that’s not already in your habits or routine,” Ava Fagin, the assistant director of sports performance at Cleveland State University, says. “The first couple of weeks when you’re trying to create an exercise habit is the hardest part. If you can push through that, it will all work out.”

Be kind to yourself and remember that everyone has to start somewhere, Jermaine says. Doing something, even for a couple minutes per day, is better than not exercising at all. In fact, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2022 found that even adding 10 minutes of physical activity per day could lead to a decreased number of preventable deaths in U.S. adults between ages 40 and 85.

The Benefits of Working Out Regularly

You don’t have to run 26.2 miles or lift super heavy weights to experience the mental and physical benefits of working out. A little bit of movement can go a long way for beginners—especially if you stay consistent. “Exercising regularly can help boost your overall mood, increase metabolic rate, improve cardiovascular health, and decrease the likelihood of many diseases,” Fagin says.

Other perks of regularly working out include:

  • Stronger muscles and bones. One downside of aging is that our bones and muscles gradually weaken. Working out—especially doing strength training exercises, like weight lifting and bodyweight movements—can help you maintain (and even build) muscle mass and bone strength as you age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Better heart health. Consistently working out has an all-around positive effect on your heart health. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise can improve the flow of blood from your heart to the rest of your body, boosting oxygen and nutrient levels. It probably doesn’t come as a big surprise then that a sedentary lifestyle increases your chances of developing heart disease, but regularly exercising can decrease your risk by lowering your blood pressure, improving your cholesterol levels, and more. 

  • Lower risk for development of chronic illnesses. In many ways, regular physical activity is a form of preventative medicine. It can lower your risk of developing many illnesses including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and certain types of cancers.

  • Better sleep. Having trouble falling or staying asleep? Exercise might be able to help your Zzzs. Although further research needs to be done on the relationship between sleep and exercise, a systematic review of 34 studies in Advances in Preventive Medicine suggests that physical activity of any type improves adults’ overall sleep duration and quality.

  • Alleviated stress levels and improved mental health. Physical movements can benefit your mind as well as your body. According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, exercise can boost mental health by increasing cognitive function and confidence while decreasing stress levels.

How to Build a Beginner-Friendly Workout Schedule That Sticks

In general, a well-rounded fitness routine includes a combination of strength training, cardio, and mobility work. Below, find an example of a weekly workout schedule that's suitable for beginners.

  • Two full body strength workouts on nonconsecutive days.

  • Three cardio workouts, aiming for at least 75 minutes of higher intensity aerobic exercise, like jogging, or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, each week.

  • Two active recovery days, during which you move your body in a low-intensity way. You might go on a leisurely walk, enjoy a restorative yoga class, or do some gentle stretching.

Rather than dedicate an entire workout to mobility and flexibility, Fagin recommends adding a few moves to your warm-up and cooldown. You can also do mobility exercises between strength moves. For example, you might follow squats with leg circles or do some arm circles after a set of push-ups.

There’s no shortage of workout options to explore as you put together your routine. But before beginners get too wrapped up in the many different training styles and class types within the strength training and cardio categories, they should consider the following:

  • Workouts should be enjoyable. “Long-term commitment thrives on enjoyment, not just obligation,” Jermaine says. Plus, research shows you're much more likely to stick with a workout that you actually enjoy and don't dread. So as you’re getting started, don’t be afraid to try something new and explore different types of workouts to see which ones you find the most fun. 

  • Fitness should feel good in your body. If you slot in several running workouts per week but your hips always hurt afterward, you’re probably not going to stay consistent. Choosing workouts that feel good and don’t cause any pain or injury flairs makes it much easier to stay on track. Don’t hesitate to smart small. “Begin with simple activities like walking, stretching, or short bodyweight exercises to build momentum,” Jermaine says. 

  • Your routine should fit into your existing schedule. Starting a fitness routine doesn't automatically give you extra hours in the day for workouts, so it's on you to carve out time for them. “Set realistic goals and prioritize regularity in workouts rather than pushing for intense sessions right away,” Jermaine says. If you don’t have time to stick to a specific plan, it’s probably not the right one for you. A couple short workouts (10-15 minutes each, for example) each week is a great starting point.

  • Flexibility is key in a sustainable routine. “Allow room for adjustments in your routine to adapt to changing schedules or preferences while staying consistent,” Jermaine says. This might mean swapping in a 15-minute Beginner Run on the Peloton Tread or Peloton Tread+ when the weather foils your outdoor jog or trying an equipment-free bodyweight workout on the Peloton App when you can’t make it to the gym.

  • A little variety can keep you on track. If you love routine, there’s no need to mix things up. But many people get bored or hit a plateau by repeating the same workouts over and over. “Do something you've never done, even if it's a 10-minute class,” Fagin suggests. “You never know what you might enjoy.”

  • Your workout routine should reflect your fitness goals. “If you want to make strides in aerobic capacity or really love riding your Peloton Bike, you might add another weekly cardio workout,” Fagin says. “Someone who wants to build strength may increase the frequency of strength training and do one fewer cardio session.”

Young girl running outside

Mihajlo Ckovric/Stocksy United

What Are the Best Workouts for Beginners?

We’ve given you the framework for a beginner-friendly fitness routine, but it’s up to you to slot in the specific workouts that appeal to you. Here are some of our experts’ favorites, whether you want to break a sweat at home, hit the gym, or take your routine outside.

Best Workouts for Beginners at Home

There are a ton of effective beginner workouts you can do at home that require limited space, equipment, and time. Whether you prefer self-guided workouts or instructor-led sessions on the Peloton App, it’s a good idea to have the following basic pieces of equipment on hand:

  • Dumbbells. “You can do so much with dumbbells,” Fagin says. Aim to have a light, medium, and heavy option available since different exercises call for different weights.

  • Foam roller. “This is amazing for warm-up and recovery,” Fagin says.

  • Exercise or yoga mat. Doing floor-based exercises is a lot more comfortable with some padding between your body and a hard floor.

  • Resistance bands or mini bands. Among other things, bands allow you to make an exercise more difficult without adding any heavy weights. For example, adding a band above your knees when you do a glute bridge further activates the sides of your glutes.

  • Cardio machines of your choice. You don’t need equipment for an effective cardio workout, but you might consider a Peloton Bike, Peloton Bike+, Peloton Tread, Peloton Tread+, or Peloton Row. “It's easier to do it if you don't have to leave the house,” Fagin says.

If you like the idea of building your own full body strength workouts, start by familiarizing yourself with the following four movement patterns:

Then, follow these three steps to build a simple but effective strength session:

  1. Pick one exercise from each movement pattern.

  2. Alternate between working the backside of your body (hip hinge and pull) and the front side of your body (knee bend and push).

  3. Do one set of eight to 12 reps of each exercise in order, resting as needed in between them. After completing the final exercise, repeat the full series one to three more times, depending on how much time and energy you have.

For example, here’s a full body workout for beginners that fits the bill:

  1. Romanian deadlift (hip hinge)

  2. Push-up (upper body push)

  3. Reverse lunge (knee bend)

  4. Single-arm row (upper body pull)

If the thought of creating your own full body strength workouts makes your head spin, that’s OK. Peloton App users can choose from a huge variety of full body strength workouts for beginners. In these classes, an instructor cues the exact movements you need to do.

Best Workouts for Beginners at the Gym

Going to a brick-and-mortar gym has its perks, especially for beginners. For starters, they provide access to tons of different equipment and present opportunities to form new social connections. But gyms are (understandably) still overwhelming to many people. That’s why we created this beginner’s guide. Whether you’re considering joining a gym for the first time or want to know what to do (and what not to do) while you’re there, it has you covered. 

If you’re already a gym regular, Peloton App users can take advantage of a huge variety of instructor-guided workouts, along with non-video style strength workouts in Peloton Gym.

Best Cardio Workouts for Beginners

Most people don’t realize just how many different things qualify as cardio. Spoiler: It’s any activity that elevates your heart rate. As we recommended earlier (and per U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines), adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Because there are so many options when it comes to cardio, you certainly don’t have to limit yourself to just one type. The best cardio workout for you is the one you look forward to doing and enjoy.

The Takeaway

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to working out for beginners, and that's good news. It means you have the ability to curate your own sustainable, enjoyable regimen (just do your best to mix in a balance of cardio, strength training, and mobility exercises). Be patient with yourself as you get into a regular routine. As you experiment with different exercise types and classes, you'll find the ones that align most with your preferences and goals.


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