See your doctor before starting an exercise program:
- Ask your doctor about the best exercise plan for you.
- Tell your doctor if you feel pain in your chest.
- Talk with your doctor about joint or bone problems that make it difficult for you to exercise.
- Ask your doctor about how increasing your activity level might impact any medicines you take for blood pressure or heart problems.
- Discuss how health problems can affect your choice of exercise plan.
What counts as exercise?
Exercise is physical activity and includes anything that gets you moving. Walking, dancing, or working in the yard count.
Types of Physical Activity
How do I make physical activity part of my routine?
You can make physical activity a regular part of your life by deciding what to do and making a realistic plan. Check out your choices below.
A complete physical activity routine includes three kinds of activities:
- Aerobic exercise
- Strength training
- Flexibility exercises
Being active throughout the day also helps you stay fit.
Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate, works your muscles, and raises your breathing rate. For most people, it’s best to aim for a total of about 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. If you haven’t been very active recently, you can start out with 5 or 10 minutes a day and work up to more time each week. Or split up your activity for the day – try a brisk 10-minute walk after each meal. If you’re trying to lose weight, you my want to exercise more than 30 minutes a day.
Here are some examples of aerobic exercise. Check off the ones you’d like to try.
- Take a brisk walk (outside or inside on a treadmill).
- Take a low-impact aerobics class.
- Swim or do water-aerobics.
- Ride your bike outside.
- Use a stationary bike inside.
- Go ice-skating.
- Go roller-skating.
- Play tennis.
Strength training, done 2 to 3 times a week, helps build strong bones and muscles. It makes everyday chores like carrying groceries easier. Strength training can also help prevent weight gain. Here are some ways to do it. Check off the things you’d like to try.
- Lift weights at home.
- Join a class to do strength training with weights, elastic bands, or plastic tubes.
Flexibility exercises, also called stretching, help keep your joints flexible. Gentle stretching for 5 to 10 minutes makes aerobic activities such as walking more comfortable. Check off the things you’d like to try.
- Take an aerobics or fitness class that includes stretching.
- Join a yoga class.
- Check out this link to the National Institutes of Health on the web for information about stretching exercises:
Be active throughout the day
Look for opportunities throughout your day to be active. Being active burns calories. Check off the things you can do.
- Walk instead of drive whenever you can.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Work in the garden.
- Do some housecleaning or other chores.
- Park at the far end of the shopping center parking lot.
- Walk down every aisle of the grocery store.
- Walk in place or stretch while you watch TV.
- Walk around the house or up and down stairs while you talk on the phone.
Making my plan for physical activity
Choose the activities you’d like to do for each type of physical activity. If you have health problems, talk with your health care team to make sure your choices are safe for you.
Dealing with barriers to physical activity
If you’re not active now, it’s likely that you have at least one reason why. Perhaps you’ve never been active. Maybe you’re embarrassed about your weight. Think about what’s keeping you from being active and then look into ways to overcome the barriers. Check off the items that are true for you.
I’ve never been active.
Don’t discount your everyday activities. You may do more than you realize, such as housekeeping or mowing the lawn. Being active is more than “exercise.”
I don’t have time to exercise for 30 minutes a day.
Do as much as you can. Every step counts. If you’re just starting out, start with 10 minutes a day and add more little by little. Work up to 10 minutes at a time, three times a day.
I’m too tired after work.
Do something active before work or during the day.
I don’t have the right clothes.
Wear anything that’s comfortable as long as you have shoes that fit well and socks that don’t irritate your skin.
I’m too shy to exercise in a group.
Choose an activity you can do on your own, such as following along with an aerobics class on TV or going for a walk.
I don’t want to have sore muscles.
Exercise shouldn’t hurt if you start slowly at first. Choose something you can do without getting sore. Learn how to warm up and stretch before you do something active and how to cool down afterward.
Walking hurts my knees.
Try chair exercises or swimming.
It’s too hot outside.
If it’s too hot, too cold, or too humid, walk inside a shopping mall or a school.
It’s not safe to walk in my neighborhood.
Find an indoor activity, such as an exercise class at a community center.
I can’t afford to join a fitness center or to buy equipment.
Do something that doesn’t require equipment, such as walking or using cans of food for weights.
Making My Exercise Plan
Are you ready to get fit? You’ll up your chance of success by making a realistic, achievable plan. Remember to start slowly with any new exercise routine and increase your duration and intensity of activity gradually.
One step at a time, you’ll reach your ultimate goals.