The Secret to Men's Fitness: 5 Tips to Start and Stay MotivatedBy Clint Carter Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
A week runs for 168 hours. Assuming you spend eight hours a night in bed and 40 hours a week at work, you still have 56 hours to use as you please. So if men’s fitness routines seem intimidating, remember this: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you only need 2.5 hours of exercise per week to keep your heart and body strong.1
More is better, of course. But 2.5 hours is the number to aim for. And that sounds easy, right? Perhaps — but if you don’t find the time every week to work out, you’re not alone: Most men still don’t set aside time for fitness. Fewer than 20% of adults actually follow through with the government's exercise recommendation.2 And that may be one of the reasons why obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are so prevalent today.
The truth is, exercise is one of your biggest weapons against weight gain and poor health (of course, eating a healthy diet is just as important!). It works better than any pill on the market, with known benefits that include weight maintenance, disease prevention and better sleep. Exercise might even make you feel better: The Mayo Clinic reports that it may simultaneously boost your mood and give you more energy.3
If you’re just getting started with a weight loss program like Jenny Craig, you’ll want to start by focusing on your diet. (We have the best foods for men’s health right here.) But once you’re committed to better health and weight loss, you’re going to want to include fitness into your regular routine. Here’s how to get started and a few of the best workouts for men.
1. Set a “process goal”
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In the world of motivation, there are two types of goals: outcome goals and process goals. As it pertains to exercise, the former puts all the emphasis on the weight you hope to lose, and the latter focuses on the precise strategies for doing so.
“I want to lose 50 pounds,” is an example of an outcome goal. But a process goal would be more like, “I want to work out three times a week, for one hour at each session.”
Which one sounds more attainable? If you guessed option two, you’re correct! A study published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that people who set process goals were significantly more likely to stick with their workouts.4
At six months, only a little over a third of people with outcome goals were still hitting the gym. Whereas the group that set process goals had 50% greater adherence — meaning they were more likely to follow through with their exercise commitments.
2. Find your workout tribe
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Researchers in Brazil followed a group of new exercisers for a year. Some of the exercisers bailed; others stuck with it. And as the researchers realized, one of the major differences between the two groups was socialization: People who expected to have human interactions during their workouts were more likely to continue showing up for each sweat session.5
One evolutionary explanation here, the researchers state, is that exercise sessions resemble the hunts our ancestors went on to acquire food for their tribes. Those hunters didn’t head out into the wilderness alone — they went in groups. While there’s no longer a need to hunt for food today, the comradery that a fitness class or workout group may bring is similar.
You can tap the impulses of your ancestors by finding a group of pals to work out with or by joining a gym or studio where you see familiar faces. And don’t be shy: Say hello and make some friends! The more social you are, the more deeply the workout may embed into your life.
3. Start early
People who commit to working out in the morning may have more success than those who try to exercise in the evening, according to a study published in the journal Health Psychology.6 For the a.m. group, the routine calcified quickly into a habit. The p.m. group, on the other hand, may have just wanted to head home after work.
The reason may be attributed to a stress hormone called cortisol. Your body produces more of it in the morning. Researchers believe that cortisol may give you a deeper well of motivation. But as cortisol drops throughout the day, so may your willpower.
So if you’re not sure when to schedule that workout, try before work. You may be more likely to get it in, and by accomplishing something big first thing in the morning, you’ll be starting your day off on a high note.
4. Consider chunking
To hit your 2.5-hour weekly workout quota, you only need to exercise for half an hour, five days a week. If you’re struggling with the idea of 30 minutes of sweat, consider breaking your day’s workout into smaller, more manageable pieces.
First thing in the morning, before you get ready for the day, try and go for a 10- or 15-minute walk. That’s half your workout! Then at lunchtime, knock out 15 minutes of jogging, bike riding, or resistance training in the gym. If you do that Monday through Friday, you’ve met your week’s 2.5-hour goal — and as you progress, you can add more time to each session.
5. Find the exercises you love
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You might find yourself gravitating toward running, yoga, or bike riding. If so, follow your bliss! There’s no one-size-fits-all program. One of the keys to long-term workout success is to find activities you like. One study from Kansas State University found that people who claimed to enjoy their workouts from the beginning were more likely to still be at it months in the future.7 If that means playing tennis with a pal, go for it. That’s exercise!
Once you’re in the swing of things (with a racket or otherwise), you can begin experimenting. By discovering new exercises you enjoy, you’ll get a better workout variety, and that will help you maximize the benefits. (There are actually five types of exercise — aerobic, anaerobic, strength, balance, and stretching — and you can learn more about each exercise with our Beginner’s Guide to Exercise.)
If you need exercises to start with now, try a few of these best exercises for men:
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Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and begin to slowly bend your knees like you’re trying to sit into an imaginary chair. Try to keep your torso lifted and keep your heels flat on the ground. Stop when your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Pause, and then return to standing. Start with three sets of 10 squats.
Squats like this work your posterior chain, meaning the large muscles along the back of your body — including your hamstrings, glutes, and obliques. By strengthening these muscles, you may actually reduce your risk of experiencing lower back pain.8
Once bodyweight squats start feeling comfortable, add some dumbbells or a kettlebell for a little more resistance. Once you’ve built your strength and confidence, you can begin adding more weight.
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Get into a high-plank position, and lower yourself slowly until your chest hits the ground. The key is to keep your back flat. If it sags down or tents upward, you won’t experience full muscle activation. And once your chest touches the ground, push up with force. Aim for three sets of 12 push-ups, or whatever you can manage. If starting in a plank position is too challenging, you can always drop down to your knees! It’s better to focus on proper form, especially when you’re just starting out.
The payoff is more than just upper body strength. In addition to toning your arms and chest, push-ups work your core and glutes, as well.9
Crunches on a Swiss ball
You’re probably familiar with standard crunches: You lay on the ground with your feet flat on the floor, put your hands behind your head, and lift your shoulders a few inches off the ground, squeezing your core tight in the process.
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And crunches are great, but according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Research, you can engage about 50% more muscle when you do them with your back against a Swiss ball, that big rubber inflatable you sometimes see rolling around the gym.10
For a complete ab burn, aim for three sets of 10 Swiss-ball crunches. And if you need more inspiration for your first day at the gym, check out these 6 Tips to Start a Strength Training Routine.
Finding the best men’s fitness routine may feel intimidating, but as you continue on your weight-loss journey, you’ll find it easier and easier to make time for workouts. To find out how Jenny Craig can help keep you motivated and give you a tailored weight loss meal plan to help reach your goals, schedule your free appointment.
Clint Carter is a reporter with more than a decade of experience in health, nutrition, and fitness, and his stories have appeared in Men's Health, Women's Health, Shape, and other fitness-driven magazines. His reporting is driven by the belief that foods are rarely ever "good" or "bad," but rather, their value depends on how they fit into an overall diet. His favorite meals are those consumed at a campsite, and much of his time is spent cycling and hiking around his home in New York's Hudson Valley.
Favorite healthy snack: Sardines and avocado on toast
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
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. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig