Your Ultimate 30-Day Workout Plan to Start the New YearBy Stephanie E - Jenny Craig Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
Now that the New Year’s confetti has finally settled, you’re ready to be more active — but where do you start?
We’ve got you covered.
This 30-day workout plan has just what you need to feel your best in 2020 — and it’s great for beginners, too! For the next 30 days, we challenge you to try these activities on your own, with a friend, or even with a group: Join us in celebrating a happy, healthy new year!
Health benefits of exercise
It’s more than just breaking a sweat — regular exercise can offer a variety of health benefits.
Along with enjoying a balanced diet, exercise can contribute to weight loss1 and a healthier lifestyle. And if you’re feeling stuck, exercise could even help you break through a weight loss plateau. That’s not all: Regular physical activity is also linked to reduced blood pressure and may help to reduce stress, according to the American Heart Association.2
How much exercise should you do?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that adults work their way up to one of the following options each week:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week (aerobic exercise increases your breathing and heart rates);
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week;
- Or a combination of the two.3
Here’s how to tell the difference between moderate- and vigorous-intensity exercise, according to the CDC:4
- During moderate-intensity activity, your breathing and heart rate will be faster, but you should still be able to hold a conversation.
- During vigorous-intensity activity, your heart rate will significantly increase, and you’ll be breathing too heavily and quickly to have a conversation.
If you’re new to working out, don’t feel pressured to start vigorous activity right away — ease into it! Our 30-day workout challenge includes many different types of exercise, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
Remember to always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program.
Your Ultimate 30-Day Workout Challenge
Try one activity per day for the next 30 days and see how you feel! Don’t forget to incorporate rest days — you may want to take a recovery day every 3-5 days,5 or more often if you’re feeling sore, fatigued or stiff. Experts at the American Council on Exercise suggest to use rest days for a mixture of relaxation and active recovery (where you’ll engage in a low-intensity activity like yoga, walking or a massage).6 So make sure to listen to your body. And be sure to stay hydrated, no matter what type of exercise you’re doing.
Pump yourself up with these six tips to keep you motivated — let’s get started!
Day 1: Take a brisk walk.
It might not be as intense as going for a run, but walking could offer great health benefits. A review of multiple studies found that people who joined a walking group significantly reduced their blood pressure, body mass index, total cholesterol, and more.7 (Here’s how to start — and stick to – a walking routine.)
Day 2: Add some strengthening moves.
If you don’t have dumbbells or weights, that’s OK! Strength training moves, including squats, lunges and pushups can be done without them. Check out these tips on how to start a strength-training routine while learning about the importance of warming up and cooling down before and after a workout.
Day 3: Try a fitness class.
Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash
Whether you’re looking for a relaxed spot to flow through some yoga poses or an energetic class to help you break a sweat, there are tons of fitness classes that could pique your interest. Many gyms and studios offer a free first class or intro classes at a discounted rate, so do a little digging — you might just find your new favorite activity! Not sure what to expect from a workout class? We’ll break it down for you in this fun guide for first-timers.
Day 4: Take a walking lunch break.
Weather permitting, take a 30-minute walk around your office building instead of hitting the cafeteria during your break. Bring along a coworker for company, or pop in some earbuds and tune in to your favorite podcast!
Day 5: Ready, set, rest!
Nice work! Go ahead and walk it out — no need to do anything too strenuous today. Take this time to loosen up any sore muscles with an easy walk around the neighborhood.
Day 6: Swap happy hour for a cardio hour.
Ditch the cocktails and get your friends together for an activity that’ll get your hearts pumping! Going out dancing, taking a quick jog or hopping on a bike are great ways to get a good cardio workout.
Day 7: Work in some core-strengthening moves.
Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels
Your core is a group of muscles that support your lower spine, pelvis and hips, which help you with almost every movement you make. Having a strong core could also boost your workouts by building better balance and posture.
Day 8: Just keep swimming.
If it’s too cold outside for a swim, try going for a dip in an indoor pool. Swimming is a healthy activity for people of all fitness levels: It’s a low-impact exercise that’s easy on the joints and it can be done at almost any time of the year. If you enjoy swimming over walking when it comes to cardio fitness, this activity might be perfect when it comes to supporting your weight loss efforts. One study found that women who completed three moderate-intensity swimming sessions per week for a year lost weight, and reduced their insulin and LDL cholesterol levels, compared to those who walked.8
Day 9: Take a dance class.
Want a class that focuses on cardio, flexibility or core strength (or a combination of all three)? Look no further than a dance class. If you’re new to the scene, look for a beginner or an “all levels” class, which is just what it sounds like: a class for people of all experience levels. Explore different types of dance to learn what you like, whether that’s Zumba, jazz dance, ballroom dance or a barre workout.
Day 10: Time for some rest and relaxation.
You’re 10 days in and you’re doing great! Treat yourself to a soothing massage to work out any knots or lingering stress from the week.
Day 11: Buddy up — get a friend to join in on the fun.
Don’t fly solo on this one! Now’s your chance to try a tandem bike or kayak, sign up for a dance class with a friend, or face off with a one-on-one basketball game. Your workout pal won’t just keep you company: Check out these 5 benefits of having a fitness buddy.
Day 12: Try something adventurous.
Photo by bady qb on Unsplash
Fire up the adrenaline: It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve never done before. Drop in for an aerial yoga class or get an incredible upper body workout while rock climbing — the sky’s the limit!
Day 13: Take a hike.
If you want to see the sights and squeeze in a workout at the same time, hiking might be your new favorite activity. Choose a trail, wear plenty of layers, bring water and snacks, and get ready for an adventure. This full-body workout bumps up your heart rate and can help you burn tons of calories, all while connecting to the great outdoors. If you can, swap a flat hiking surface with uneven ground — you could boost the amount of energy your body uses by 28% compared to walking, experts at the University of Michigan found.9
Day 14: ’Tis the season … for winter sports.
Sitting by the fireplace can wait: Break out some skis, a snowboard, or even a sled — snow makes the perfect winter playground! Ice skating, snowshoeing and snow tubing are some of the most fun ways to turn a snow day into a surprisingly effective workout.
Day 15: Or, soak up the sun and sweat it out.
Taking a warm weather vacation in the new year? No problem. Make the most of it by finding a creative way to work out, like surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, or even body surfing. Keep it going — you’re halfway there!
Day 16: Rest and rejuvenate with a gentle stretching session.
Unwind from an active week with some slow and steady stretches. Breathe deeply and work on stretching parts of your body that feel tense or sore. Try a little foam rolling to relieve some tension.
Day 17: Ease back into it with restorative yoga.
Restorative yoga, or yoga “flow” classes are a less intense way to begin adding exercise back into your week. If you’re new to practicing yoga, try booking a class — an instructor will be able to help you adjust your poses and offer easier variations you can try. New to yoga? No problem. Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Yoga and get ready for your first class.
Day 18: Play a team sport.
Try your hand (or racket) at a quick doubles tennis match, test your speed during a game of flag football, or put your best foot forward in a competitive soccer match. No matter what sport you prefer, you’ll have a team to cheer you on along the way — go for it!
Day 19: Find a new spot for a morning walk.
Retreat from the hustle and bustle of a busy morning by taking some quiet time for yourself. Grab a cup of coffee and change the scenery by exercising in a new park or neighborhood. Tune into your surroundings and enjoy a relaxing morning, all while getting your steps for the day.
Day 20: Wheel you be up for this challenge?
Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash
That’s right: Pick your preferred form of transportation — but make sure it has wheels! Log a few miles on a bike, lace up a pair of skates or jump on a skateboard and roll on with your day. If you’re in the mood for an activity with friends, a quadricycle or tandem bike will keep your group together.
Day 21: Band together.
Try a workout with a little resistance: Using exercise bands will add intensity to stretching and strength training.
Day 22: Rest up!
Take a day off to stretch, get a massage, foam roll, or try another form of active recovery — you deserve it!
Day 23: Get creative with your equipment.
Grab a set of dumbbells like these, or take a peek around the house for some alternatives. Soup cans or jugs of water make great dumbbells, while a taut towel can double as an exercise band. Use paper plates as replacements for “gliders,” plastic discs you’ll use during ab and leg workouts. If you’re not ready to add a medicine ball into your routine, try using a soccer ball or a basketball instead.
Day 24: Tune in to a workout video.
Change things up by trying an activity at home. No matter what type of sweat sesh you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you can find a workout online! Check a few of our workout videos to get started.
Day 25: Tone and strengthen your arms.
Photo by Neustockimages on iStock
Welcome to the final stretch! Pushups, bicep curls, hammer curls, tricep dips — go ahead and work those arms! Try a few reps of each, or whatever combination you feel most comfortable with. Use this guide to help you with proper form.
Day 26: Core power = your new superpower.
Toss a medicine ball with a partner while standing or sitting, challenge yourself to hold a plank for 30 seconds (or more), or bust out a core-strengthening classic: crunches.
Day 27: Rest those muscles.
Wipe that sweat off your brow — you’re almost there! Use today to walk off some soreness, soak in a hot bath and relax. You got this!
Day 28: Everyone’s favorite day … leg day.
OK, it might not be everyone’s favorite day, but there’s nothing like a good leg workout! Try a 30-second wall sit, do a few lunges or work in some calf raises. Are you feeling the burn yet?
Day 29: Choose an offbeat activity.
Connect with your quirky side and check out an activity that you’re curious about. Find a different type of flow with metal yoga, test your navigation skills at an orienteering event, or sign up for bubble soccer (a quick internet search might reveal your new favorite hobby). You’ll change things up while trying something new!
Day 30: Your choice!
This is it — the final day of the 30-day workout challenge. What was the most difficult workout you completed? The most fun? Pick your favorite and go all in.
Congrats, you did it!! Your 30-day workout plan was a success — do you feel stronger? More energetic? Share your favorite workout in the comments, or tell us your greatest achievement!
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig and has written for the health and wellness, tech, and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. They employ an “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoy the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find them photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: green apple slices with sunflower butter
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig