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We’ve all heard it—exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle. In fact, the recommendation is a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily. So how do you go about choosing the right exercise plan? One that you will both enjoy and be able to stick with?

The first step is setting a goal. Without a clear-cut destination—say, lose 20 pounds in six months—it will be impossible to track the effectiveness of exercise. A strong goal is specific and measurable, with a method for achieving the goal: in short, the type of exercise.

To choose the right type of exercise, it is vital to know yourself. Exercise methods range from high-impact walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, weight-lifting, and interval training to more athletic, multi-person-oriented versions like tennis or basketball. Knowing both what you enjoy and what you are capable of will allow you to pick an exercise method that is right for you or a combination of several. For example, swimming is well known as one of the best forms of whole-body exercise that is also easy on the wear and tear on the body, but if you hate to get wet or are afraid of water, obviously swimming will not be a pleasant experience and therefore is not the right choice. Running is a good choice if you are looking to burn calories quickly to gain a leaner appearance, but it can be damaging to joints and feet and should be done with close monitoring. Knowing yourself and your body will go to great lengths to get you to your goal.

Another point to consider is budget, the necessary evil. While average gym costs simmer around $60 per month, there are many online options from the comfort of your living room or home gym ranging from $10 per month to free. Online forums now offer the same type of support that gyms do in-person. Knowing your purse is also a key to meeting your goal.

Finally, understanding your motivation goes a long way toward achieving your fitness goal. If you are seeking an exercise plan to make someone else happy, you are much less likely to succeed. When motivation comes internally, and you are exercising for you, then you are on the right track to exercise success.

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