The start of the New Year is a great time to set new fitness goals and work towards living a healthy, active life.

There’s something about January 1st that motivates people to strive to be better versions of themselves. The start of the year is an ideal time to set new personal fitness goals , try out new exercise routines and revamp nutritional habits. But with so many options and so much health and fitness information online and in magazines, it’s not surprising that a lot of people have questions about how to get started with a new plan.

Use these answers to common fitness questions to help get you on your way to achieving your 2016 fitness goals:

I’m new to exercising. Where do I start?
Getting started with an exercise plan may seem daunting, but once you get going it will feel very natural. The most important thing is to listen to your body. Push yourself enough so that you feel like you’re challenging yourself, but not too hard that you risk getting injured or feeling terribly sore the next day.

Here is a stepped approach to getting fit:

• Perform simple stretches to ensure you’re moving your muscles and joints through their full range of motion each day.
• Increase your daily activity level by taking the stairs, parking in the furthest space from the store, gardening, dancing or playing with your children. Just get moving!
• Start adding regular walks to your day. You can slowly increase your time until 30 minutes feels comfortable. Then increase your intensity level by walking faster. Start including varied terrain such as hills and then progress to a jogging or running pace.
• Perform body weight resistance exercises such as simple squats, lunges, push-ups and then progress to using weights.

How much exercise do I need?
There are several sources that recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week (about 30 minutes, five times a week) for weight-loss and general health. This is classified by moderate to vigorous physical activity. However, let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. In this case, you’ll need to train for a lot longer than 30 minutes at a time. If your goal simply is to lose weight or improve you overall fitness level, 30 minutes may be all you need. Striving to achieve the minimum recommended amount of activity is important for everyone. When you think about it, 30 minutes is a relatively short time commitment and an achievable goal for most people. I believe that although a workout time of 30 minutes is adequate for achieving the health benefits associated with exercise, you should attempt to schedule a longer workout.

What should I eat before I work out?
Eating a snack that contains carbs and protein before a workout can provide you with energy, keep you focused and give your body what it needs to build muscle once the workout is over.

What is the best exercise for getting a flat tummy?
There are so many great exercises that target the tummy area, but your diet is the most important factor for weight loss. One of my favorite ab exercises that I add to my weekly workouts is:

Forearm Plank (60 seconds)
Place your forearms on your exercise mat in line with your shoulders. Plant your toes into the ground so that you are using your core strength to hold your forearm plank. Take deep breaths and be sure not to put too much pressure on your neck or back. Your abs should be working to hold you up.

What is the biggest mistake people make at the gym?
Improper use of equipment. They perform exercises incorrectly and end up injuring themselves. So, don’t be afraid to ask a trainer how to use the equipment.

What would you recommend for a quick 20-minute workout?
When you only have 20 minutes to squeeze in a workout, try to do 10 minutes of cardio. This can be a mix of jumping rope, burpees, jumping jacks and high knees running. Spend another 10 minutes focused on functional, strength-based exercises, such as squats, lunges, pushups and planks. If you work at a high intensity and take short, active rest periods, 20 minutes can feel like an hour.

If I’m short on time, what can I do at work to burn calories?
If you’re able, do squats or other exercises that involve using the large muscle groups, such as legs and glutes. You can hold onto your chair and try squats or leg lifts, or you can sit at your desk, squeeze your glutes and kick your leg out for a quad extension. Walking around the office or using your lunch break to do a 20-minute fitness routine would be a great way to keep from being sedentary.

Use the start of the New Year to your advantage. Set some new goals, devise a fitness plan and make this your best year ever!

Written by Samantha Clayton. AFAA, ISSA Senior Director, Worldwide Fitness Education at Herbalife.