How much exercise do I need?
Talk to your doctor about how much exercise is right for you. A good goal for many people is to work up to exercising 4 to 6 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Remember, though, that exercise has so many health benefits that any amount is better than none.
How do I get started?
Start by talking with your family doctor. This is especially important if you haven’t been active, if you have any health problems or if you’re pregnant or elderly.
Start out slowly. If you’ve been inactive for years, you can’t run a marathon after only 2 weeks of training! Begin with a 10-minute period of light exercise or a brisk walk every day and gradually increase how hard you exercise and for how long.
How do I stick with it?
Here are some tips that will help you start and stick with an exercise program:
- Choose something you like to do. Make sure it suits you physically, too. For instance, swimming is easier on arthritic joints.
- Get a partner. Exercising with a friend or relative can make it more fun.
- Vary your routine. You may be less likely to get bored or injured if you change your exercise routine. Walk one day. Bicycle the next. Consider activities like dancing and racquet sports, and even chores like vacuuming or mowing the lawn.
- Choose a comfortable time of day. Don’t work out too soon after eating or when it’s too hot or cold outside. Wait until later in the day if you’re too stiff in the morning.
- Don’t get discouraged. It can take weeks or months before you notice some of the changes from exercise, such as weight loss.
- Forget “no pain, no gain.” While a little soreness is normal after you first start exercising, pain isn’t. Take a break if you hurt or if you are injured.
- Make exercise fun. Read, listen to music or watch TV while riding a stationary bicycle, for example. Find fun things to do, like taking a walk through the zoo. Go dancing. Learn how to play a sport you enjoy, such as tennis.
Making exercise a habit
- Stick to a regular time every day.
- Sign a contract committing yourself to exercise.
- Put “exercise appointments” on your calendar.
- Keep a daily log or diary of your exercise activities.
- Check your progress. Can you walk a certain distance faster now than when you began exercising? Or is your heart rate slower now?
- Ask your doctor to write a prescription for your exercise program, such as what type of exercise to do, how often to exercise and for how long.
- Think about joining a health club. The cost gives some people an incentive to exercise regularly.