There is a misconception in New Zealand that gyms are busiest in summer. However, the busiest time for new members to join, as well as usage of gyms, is actually over winter – starting as early as May, according to a leading exercise expert.

Richard Beddie, chief executive of Exercise New Zealand, says that based on their data, 10 percent more Kiwis join gyms and fitness facilities in winter for a multitude of reasons; everything from health to body transformation goals.

“Our research shows that popular winter activities include small group training activities and yoga, along with traditional exercise such as weights and group exercise classes, which continue to grow in popularity every year.”

Richard says there isn’t a day where a new report or research article doesn’t come out finding another reason to exercise and be physically active.

“We know more Kiwis want to stay active and be healthier in winter. So many New Zealanders love individual exercise, which is part of a worldwide trend for exercise to be growing while structured sport is on the decline.

“Exercise is now the number one sport in New Zealand with more than half a million participants. Growing research confirms the health benefits of activity for every age,” he says.

Some key tips to make a new exercise programme effective:

1. If new to exercise, join with a friend as this increases exercise adherence by more than 10 percent

2. Set realistic mini goals and, where possible, focus on how often you go in the first instance, rather than any larger goals, such as going at least six times in the first month

3. Find a place to work-out that gives the right support, as well as making you feel comfortable. Visit the facility or place when you think you’ll exercise the most often. For example, visit after work or lunch time, if that’s when you are likely to use the facility.

4. Anyone getting into new regular exercise should check sure that their trainer is registered. In New Zealand, qualifications range from two days to four years, so not all ‘qualified trainers’ are the same. Check trainers’ registration at www.reps.org.nz or ask if they are registered with REPs, which is the New Zealand Register of Exercise Professionals

5. Everyone contemplating exercise should be fully aware that their fitness and health are vitally important, so activities in any form, be it exercise, sport or active transport are beneficial. The key is starting with something, and building from there.