Staying motivated to exercise is tough - and one of the hardest parts is usually getting started.

The key to a successful exercise programme is your reason for doing it in the first place. It may be that you want to lose fat, get stronger, gain energy, increase your flexibility, run a half marathon, compete in a triathlon, reduce your back pain, rehabilitate an injury, reduce your blood pressure, manage your diabetes, be healthy for your kids or improve your heart health. Your reasons to exercise need to be personal.

Having established your reasons (goals) write them down and put them somewhere you can refer to - maybe on the fridge or beside your bed. Try to be as specific and realistic as possible, and consider how you are going to measure progress and possible rewards.

Once you've recognised why you need to exercise you need to plan for it in your day. If you're a procrastinator it may be best to get up and complete your exercise session straight away. If you have kids it may be while they are at school or an appointment with your personal trainer after work. It needs to work for you and the type and frequency of exercise needs to be sufficient to progress you towards your goals.

(For general health benefits you should be completing 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on five days of the week or 20 minutes of high intensity exercise three days a week. This should include two strength training sessions.)

You may choose to walk, go to the gym, play squash or golf, go for a run or complete an exercise class. If you're not sure, talk to a personal trainer.

Remember, don't start a new exercise session with "guns blazing" as the muscle soreness you experience may be enough to put you off before you even get going. Progression is the key.

Keep at it

One of the biggest reasons people fall off the exercise train is the lack of immediate consequences. You're not going to gain weight because you didn't complete one exercise session. If you continue to skip sessions however, you will most likely begin to gain weight - but you probably won't notice until the day those pants just don't fit you anymore.

Since changes to the body take time, you need to give yourself a realistic time frame in which to see and feel results. Four- to six-week blocks are usually a good start.

Once you've tasted success it becomes that much easier to find the motivation to keep exercising. Hold on to these feelings so that if you do slip off the wagon it's easier to get back on, as you will remember how you felt when you were exercising regularly.

And if you find that having a reason isn't enough motivation to exercise then tell a family member or friend, or hire a personal trainer. Now get moving.

Rachel Mahoney is operations manager for BodyTech Supervised Fitness Gym