Whether you’re just starting a new exercise regime for 2018 or already tinkering with your plan, congratulations – you’re among millions of Americans trying to sweat off the holiday sluggishness.

Embarking on a physical activity program is a good goal, health experts say, especially if you’re doing it for the right reasons – to improve overall health and feel better. As part of such a goal, it’s important to find a fitness plan that suits your needs.

1. Pace yourself

Consider exercising frequently but also “slow and easy” at first, said exercise physiologist Dr. Cris Slentz, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center.

And, it’s important to remember that it takes time.

“Don’t expect too much too fast,” he said.

Starting modestly with 15- to 20-minute sessions of physical activity gets the process going. Gradually, you can ramp up in intensity and duration.

Exercising every day or almost every day makes fitness part of a regular routine. The main question then becomes not “Do I exercise?” but “When do I exercise?” Slentz said.overweight woman

2. Remember the big picture

Health benefits connected to exercise are numerous. Most research has focused on aerobic exercise, Slentz noted, which includes activities such as brisk walking, jogging, uphill walking, bicycling and swimming.

Scientific studies have shown only mild or modest weight loss achieved through exercise. Careful attention to diet is also necessary to lose weight, Slentz said.

But physical activity can improve heart, bone and vascular health. It has been shown to reduce the incidence of diabetes, reduce the risk of certain cancers; reduce stress; and improve brain health. Research has also shown a connection between exercise and reduced risk of premature death.

The National Institutes of Health Common Fund has launched a major consortium to study the molecular changes that occur during and after exercise. Multiple research institutions across the country are participating in the research over the next few years.