Fall Back into Exercise: How to Return to Exercise after a Long Hiatus

Summer is coming to an end, and many of us are thinking about fall; a time we all get a bit more serious about our priorities – including health and fitness! If you’ve been neglecting your workout routine due to illness, a busy summer schedule, or good old fun in the sun, fall is the perfect time to return to the gym. Here’s how to ease back into exercise after a long hiatus.


A good warm-up can make your workout more pleasant, especially after a long break. Spending 5-10 minutes warming-up with light aerobic activity and/or dynamic stretches (such as toe touches, butt kicks, and high kicks) prepares your body for exercise by increasing blood flow, heating your muscles, and activating exercise-supporting hormones. This makes your workout feel easier and decreases your chance of injury. After exercise, cool-down with light aerobic activity (i.e. walking in place or side-stepping), then stretch for 5-10 minutes, stretching each major muscle group for at least 10-30 seconds. Stretching helps prevent injury and is a great stress reliever!

Start Gradually

To avoid injury or frustration, start slowly. Don’t expect to have the same endurance or strength as your last trip to the gym. Modify your workouts and gradually increase exercise time and intensity over the course of 2 – 4 weeks. Initially, you may also want to decrease your number of workout sessions. For example, if you were accustomed to exercising 5-6 days per week before your hiatus, you may want to start with 3-4 workouts per week. Most importantly, remember that patience and consistency is the best way to see results!

Set a Goal

Setting goals is key for staying motivated, especially when you’ve fallen out of your routine. Try setting a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound, also known as a “SMART” goal. For example, a goal to “walk 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, for 4 weeks” is a better goal than “I will walk regularly this month”. Setting goals that are clear and attainable can boost your self-confidence and help you stay motivated.

Take Time to Recover

When returning to exercise, self-care is vital. Take time to hydrate before, during, and after exercise, and follow your Registered Dietitian’s recommendations for pre- and post-workout nutrition. You can also aid your body in recovery by sleeping 7-8 hours each night and taking a relaxing, hot bath to ease sore muscles. Rest and recovery is crucial to overall fitness, so treat your body like a temple!

Ask for Help

Returning to exercise can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Recruit a workout buddy, talk to a family member about your goals, or contact one of our Virtual Fitness Specialists. VHP’s Virtual Fitness Specialists can help you return to exercise by answering questions, assisting in setting SMART goals, and recommending classes that best fit your goals and fitness level. We can help you FALL back into exercise and reach your goals!