You don’t have to be a distance runner to be the ideal picture of health. The most important thing is that you’re staying active, giving your heart a workout, and moving toward or working to maintain a healthy weight.

The key is to find something you enjoy doing and stick with it. For some women, that means having a friend go to the gym or walk around the block with them. Others prefer to tuck themselves away in the corner with an MP3 player rocking old-school tunes while they sweat. Here are some suggestions for finding your workout style and mixing it up every once in a while.

Take It Slow

Overweight women or those who haven’t been physically active in several years should begin their routines slowly. Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program to see if there are any precautions you should take. Start out with sessions of only five or 10 minutes, and gradually increase.

Get Your 30

The goal for physical activity should be 30 minutes each day. Studies have shown that three 10-minute sessions are just as beneficial to your health as one longer session. For example, you could do 10 minutes of dancing before work, a 10-minute walk around the parking lot at lunch, and a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood as soon as you get home. Of course, more exercise is better, as long as you take precautions to avoid injuries such as muscle strain.

Pump Some Iron

Resistance training or weight lifting is key to strengthening your bones and improving your balance and coordination, which may in turn reduce your risk for osteoporosis and help prevent injuries or falls as you age. Not sure how to get started? Hire a trainer for a one-time session, and jot down all that he or she says so you can refer back to it later.

Mix It Up

Many gyms and community centers offer free classes with a monthly membership (or a small fee if you aren’t a member). Take advantage of those opportunities; you may get to experience some of the newest and hottest fitness trends and find something you really love doing.

Mind Your Money

You can get a great workout at home for just pennies. Fitness DVDs are a great way to exercise, and when you’re ready to try something different, swap your old DVDs for some new ones on websites such as SwapaDvd.com. Another option is to tune in regularly to a fitness show broadcast on TV or cable. Other home-friendly workouts that require little or no special equipment: walking or jogging, jump roping, dancing, squats, weight training with found objects (bags of beans, a heavy book, a water bottle), jumping jacks, and push-ups.

Stretch

Stretching after a workout should always be part of your routine. Stretching improves flexibility and range of motion, may cut your risk of injury or muscle cramps, and improves circulation throughout the body. If you need a little guidance on the best ways to stretch, ask a trainer for a quick tutorial.