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Exercise Guidelines to Getting Started

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Thinking about adding physical activity to your life, but not sure how to get started? Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest part.

Exercise Guidelines to Getting Started

If you have not been active in some time, your best approach is to start at a comfortable level and add a little more activity as you gain in strength and cardiovascular endurance.

What is holding you back?

Think about reasons why you have not been physically active. Then try to come up with some ways to get past what is keeping you from getting active.

Have you said to yourself...

  • I haven't been active in a very long time. Choose something you like to do. Many people find walking helps them get started. Before you know it, you will be doing more each day.
  • I just don't have the time for exercise. Start with 10-minute chunks of time a couple of days a week. Walk during a break. Dance in the living room to your favorite music. It all adds up.
  • It costs too much. You don't have to join a health club or buy fancy equipment to be active. Play tag with your kids. Walk briskly with your dog for 10 minutes or more.

Treadmill Grab a notebook and jot down a list of things you could do to get past what may be holding you back.

Okay, just what will physical activity do for me?

You may have heard the good things you can gain from regular physical activity. Check off which of these benefits you hope to get from active living:

  • Be healthier
  • Increase my chances of living longer
  • Feel better about myself
  • Have less chance of becoming depressed
  • Sleep better at night
  • Help me look good
  • Be in shape
  • Get around better
  • Have stronger muscles and bones
  • Help me stay at or get to a healthy weight
  • Be with friends or meet new people
  • Enjoy myself and have fun

Also of note, when you are not physically active, you are more likely to:

  • Get heart disease
  • Get type 2 diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high blood cholesterol
  • Have a stroke

Getting Started, Moving Forward

Start by doing what you can, and then look for ways to do more. If you have not been active for a while, start out slowly. After several weeks or months, build up your activities - do them longer and more often.

Walking is one way to add physical activity to your life. When you first start, walk 10 minutes a day on a few days during the first couple of weeks.

Add more time and days. Walk a little longer. Try 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes. Then walk on more days a week.

Pick up the pace. Once this is easy to do, try walking faster. Keep up your brisk walking for a couple of months. You might want to add biking on the weekends for variety.

How much physical activity do you need each week?


  • Adults should get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity that requires moderate effort.
  • You need to do this type of activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.


What kind of exercise should I do?

Different kinds of activities help the body in different ways. Some can help you be more flexible, some will promote muscle strength, and some will increase fitness levels.

Golfing and weights are good for your circulation and muscle tone, but to improve heart and lung fitness you need aerobic exercise. Aerobics are any exercise of any activity that uses large muscle groups (legs or arms) at a steady pace for 20 minutes or longer.

Examples of aerobic activities are: Brisk walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, jogging, rowing, cross-country skiing, Dancing...

If you have been inactive, you may need to begin with five to ten minutes of activity each day, then gradually increase your time and pace.

How much exercise should I do?

To help your heart, lungs and circulation, it is best to gradually work up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four days a week, working at a moderate to vigorous pace. If you are not able to exercise vigorously, you can gain pace on a daily basis. When weight loss is a goal, try to work up to 60 minutes of activity four to five days a week.

How will I know if I am doing enough or if I am over doing it?

You can check yourself in one of two ways:

  • Use the rating scale: Make sure you exercise at a level that feels "moderate" to "somewhat hard" (3 to 4 on the rating scale below). Avoid exercising tool lightly or too hard.
  • Use the "talk test": If you are exercising with a friend and you become breathless and unable to comfortable carry on a conversation, you need to slow things down.

Rating Scale:

Rating Scale 0 -- Standing at rest
0.5 -- Very, very easy
1 -- Very easy
2 -- Easy
3 -- Moderate
4 -- Somewhat hard
5 -- Hard
6 -- A bit harder
7 -- Very hard
8 -- Getting more difficult
9 -- Very, very hard
10 -- Maximal

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Disclaimer: The material on this Web site is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or fitness professional. Please consult with your physician before beginning any fitness program or fat or weight reduction program. FitnessandFreebies.com takes no responsibility for individual results, or any claim made by a third party.