Something I've noticed now that I'm no longer in my early 20s is that having zero workout routine is not so cute anymore. Exercising regularly is a sign of responsibility—an indication that leading a long, healthy, well-adjusted life is important to you. I'd like to think these things are important to me, too. But as a 25-year-old who has yet to work fitness into my lifestyle with any consistency, the prospect of starting now feels intimidating.
I figured I couldn't be alone. So many of us in our mid- to late-20s are navigating a career, a living situation, and a social calendar, and amidst all that adulting, nailing down an effective workout regimen can be tough. So I reached out to a handful of trusted trainers, who offered their most doable, least intimidating advice for how to start making fitness a priority.
The following advice consists of itty-bitty fitness tweaks that we can (and should) work into our lifestyle before we hit 30. They're small changes that won't make you skip workouts, feel inferior, and give up on the whole thing altogether, which trainers say is a common fitness mistake women in their 20s make.
"My number one piece of advice for women in their mid- to late-20s would be not to get stuck on one bad day," begins Triana Cristobal, a trainer at modelFIT. (See? Told you this advice would be reasonable.) "If you didn't make it to class or ended up eating that entire pint of Ben & Jerry's, it's not the end of the world, and it doesn't mean tomorrow has to play out the same way."
Cristobal promises that while consistency is, of course, the goal, letting yourself fall off the bandwagon because your workout routine isn't "perfect" totally isn't necessary. Her best advice? "Build healthy habits now and do your best to stick to them. And if you fall, get right back up again!"
Want more realistic workout advice? Keep scrolling for seven easy fitness habits to adopt now.
1. Stretch Daily
No crazy contortionist poses necessary—just 10 minutes of gentle stretching a day can have a positive impact on your physical health. Whether you're warming up for your workout, cooling down afterward, or just doing a few downward dogs, the practice "is great for strengthening and lengthening," says Ashley Guarrasi, celebrity trainer at Rumble Boxing. As Cristobal adds, daily stretching also "helps with preventing injuries and allows for better form and function."
2. Adjust Your Posture
It sounds so simple but reminding yourself not to hunch your shoulders or crane your neck every day can add up to be just as beneficial as regular exercise. "I grew up as a dancer, which is probably the reason I'm such a stickler for good posture, but honestly it's something that you can do that will give you great results within seconds," says Cristobal.
Seriously: Standing up straight with your shoulder blades back helps activate your core and arms. It also lengthens your whole body instantly—no Pilates required. "Plus, it promotes a feeling of confidence that will help you tackle any workout," says Cristobal. (Try putting a Post-It note on your computer monitor reminding you to adjust your posture throughout the day.)
3. Start a Weight-Training Routine
According to NYC-based certified personal trainer Diana Mitrea, one of the best fitness habits to develop in your 20s is to cultivate a weight training practice. "Putting on some muscle and toning up is so, so, so much easier when you're young, and I regret every day that I didn't start sooner than I did," she says.
If you still feel nervous about working with weights for the first time, Mitrea recommends trying out a few sessions with a personal trainer. "It's very worthwhile to learn how to do it and build up some strength early on in life," she says.
4. Slow Down Your Workouts
Another super simple fitness tweak: Next time you work out, whether you're doing squats at the gym or yoga in your living room, try slowing your movements way down. According to Cristobal, this helps you "tap into using your body's own resistance." Hitting the slow-mo button on your moves also forces you to make sure you're doing them correctly and targeting the right muscles groups. For example, instead of doing lightening-fast leg raises, where you're kicking your leg up and letting it fall to the floor, try doing the movement in half-time, which will give your muscles a more effective workout without the risk of injury.
5. Walk Everywhere You Can
This is the reason New Yorkers can get away with eating pizza and cannolis every day without having a heart attack: good old-fashioned walking. According to modelFIT trainer Peter Sers, getting into the habit of walking to the grocery store or even going for a nightly stroll around the block burns a few extra calories that add up over the course of a week, month, or year. Walking is also a meditative practice that's just as good for the mind as it is for the body.
6. Drink. More. Water
You've heard it four thousand times, and we're going to say it again: Force yourself to become a water drinker now because there are so many benefits, yet the older you get the harder it will be to get into the habit. As if you've forgotten all the arguments for staying properly hydrated (that means about two liters a day), Guarrasi promises it will keep your skin glowing and body functioning at peak level well into your 30s. Sers adds that it also curbs hunger, so you're less likely to overeat. So do whatever you need to do: Buy a cute water bottle, a fancy ice tray, a pack of Pinterest-worthy straws… whatever it takes to make yourself water-obsessed.
7. Rejigger Your Attitude Toward Fitness
You may have spent your early 20s complaining about working out, but it's officially time to quit. "Like with anything, you'll get more out of your workouts if you're in a positive state of mind and having fun," says Cristobal. "Feeling the burn is all part of the fun, so learn to like it!"
Mitrea and Cristobal suggest embracing the wonders of a good workout playlist and experimenting with different workouts until you find the one you love. "That way, later in your life you will always have that to fall back on if the latest fitness fads are turning sour," Mitrea says. "And you'll always have that itch to stay active."