Tips for Starting a Physical Activity Program
By making the simple choice of getting up and moving, you’ll be getting quite a few payoffs.
By making the simple choice of getting up and moving, you’ll be getting quite a few payoffs: People who are physically active typically eat healthier and smoke less, report less stress and feel better about their lives in general. Yet 80 percent of Americans don’t get the physical activity they need. Don’t be one of the 80 percent—here are some tips to help you get started!
First, visit your healthcare provider and get a baseline health screening to make sure you’re healthy enough for physical activity. Once you’ve got the green light to get moving, start out by taking a walk. It’s free and easy! Wear comfortable clothes and sneakers (or flat shoes with laces). Start slowly, and gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (like brisk walking) on most or all days of the week—your doctor will let you know what’s best for you.
An exercise companion can help you stay motivated, so grab a friend! Or join an exercise group, health club or local YMCA. Also check out churches and senior centers—many of them offer exercise programs, too.
Be sure to drink a glass of water before, during and after activity. Again, your doctor can advise you on how much water you need to stay hydrated.
Note your activities in a journal, calendar or logbook. Write down the distance and length of time of your activity and how you feel after each session. Make physical activity a regular part of your day—let it become a habit! Add it to your calendar and treat it like any other important meeting or event. And if life gets in the way, don’t get discouraged if you stop for a while. Just get started again and work up to your previous pace.
To keep from getting bored, mix it up. Walk one day, ride your bike on another, take a yoga class on the weekend. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, and they also recommend strength training with weights or resistance bands two to three times a week. A combination of these two types of exercise can help you stay healthy. Exercise is just one of the components of the AHA’s "Simple 7" steps to a healthier heart.
Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be a scheduled event. Look for ways during your day to be more active—take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the mall entrance, walk the dog after dinner instead of sitting down in front of the TV. You’ll be surprised at how many opportunities for physical activity you’ll find during the day. The important thing is to incorporate physical activity into your life whenever you can—and once you get started, keep it up!