As we said before,
you're not as likely to succeed if you jump in too far too fast. In this
section, you'll learn about the steps to follow in setting up an exercise
- Set your goals.
- Pick an activity,
and prepare for it.
- Think about your barriers.
support—from others and from yourself.
Set your goals
are clear about your reasons for wanting to get active, it's time to set your
What is your long-term goal? A long-term goal is something
you want to reach in 6 to 12 months. For example, someone who isn't active at
all right now may have a goal of entering an organized 5-kilometer walk in 6
Whatever you choose for your goal, experts recommend
doing either of these things to get and stay healthy:1
- Moderate activity for at least 2½ hours
a week. Moderate activity means things like brisk walking, brisk cycling, or
shooting baskets. But any activities—including daily chores—that raise your
heart rate can be included.
- Vigorous activity for at least 1¼ hours a week. Vigorous activity means things
like jogging, cycling fast, cross-country skiing, or playing a basketball game.
You breathe faster and your heart beats much faster with this kind of
It's fine to be active in several blocks of 10 minutes or
more throughout your day and week. And you can choose to do one or both types
If you decide to aim for these recommendations, what
are the short-term goals that will help you get there? Short-term goals are
things you want to do tomorrow and the day after.
For example, if
you want to build up to walking 30 minutes every day, you might start by
walking just 10 minutes a day, a few days a week. After a week, you can set a
new goal by adding just a few minutes every day or adding another day to your
Read more about
Here are some quick tips
about activity goals:
- Stretch, breathe, and lift. Think about doing
things in three areas:
- Talk, don't sing. If you can talk while you're
being active, you're moving at a good pace. If you can sing, you might want to
pick up the pace a bit.
- Don't forget—any activity counts, as long
as it makes you breathe harder and gets your heart pumping.
Pick an activity and prepare for it
For ideas on fitting more activity into your day, see the
Think about barriers
Take the time to think about what things could get
in the way of your success. We call these things barriers. And by thinking
about them now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen.
Read more about
common barriers and what you can do about them.
Here are some tips for dealing with barriers:
- It's perfectly normal to try something, stop
it, and then get mad at yourself. Lots of people try and try again before they
reach their goals.
- If you feel like giving up, don't waste energy
feeling bad about yourself. Remember your reason for wanting to change, think
about the progress you've made, and give yourself a pep talk and a pat on the
back. Then you may feel like going for a walk.
- When you hit a
barrier—and most people do—get support. Talk to your family members and friends
to see if someone wants to be active with you or cheer you on. If you have
concerns about your health, talk to your doctor to make sure that you're doing
your activities safely.
- Don't forget little rewards. Something to
look forward to can keep you moving right along.
It might help you to
write down your goals and your barriers (What is a PDF document?).
Get support—from others and from yourself
The more support you have, the easier it is to
If your family members tell you that they love how
you're getting healthier, you'll probably be motivated to bound up the stairs
at work or walk an extra 10 minutes.
And there's more support out
there. You can even ask for encouragement. Here are a few things to look
- Walk or do your activities with a partner.
It's motivating to know that someone is counting on you. That person can remind you how good it feels to exercise or how far you've come. And that person can even motivate you with what he or she has accomplished.
and family may be a great resource. They can exercise with you or encourage you
by saying how they admire you. Friends can tell you how good you look because you're exercising. Don't be afraid to tell family and friends that their encouragement makes a big difference to you.
- You might join a
class or workout group. People in these groups often have some of the same
barriers you have. They can give you support when you don't feel like exercising. They can boost your morale when you need a lift.
yourself positive reinforcement. Reward yourself! Buy new workout clothes, take yourself to the movies, or treat yourself to a new DVD. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that you've been meeting your goals. You're successful!
- Your doctor or a fitness professional can help you plan a routine
and learn proper form and technique. He or she can
help you track progress toward your health goals.
You might find a fitness professional at a local health club or in phone listings. When deciding on fitness professionals, ask about how they were trained and what certifications they have. Check into experience and ask for a few references.
Support is everywhere. You just have to look for it.
Test Your Knowledge
Setting your goals is an important first step in
forming your exercise plan.
Before you start an exercise program, you need to
identify your barriers. This means:
- Counting how many doors you need to open to get
outside to exercise.
- Watching for bumps and potholes as you walk down the
street so that you don't trip.
- Thinking ahead about what might get in your way as you
try to make exercise a regular part of your life.
Continue to Where do you go from here?
Return to Fitness: Adding More Activity to Your Life