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Getting Started with Exercise


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

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

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.


  • Adults should also do muscle strengthening or strength training activities at least 2 days a week.
  • Strengthening activities include push-ups, sit-ups and lifting weights

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

Do I need to see my doctor before I start an exercise program?

While a good idea for anyone, it is vital that some people consult their doctor before they start an exercise program. See your doctor if:

  • You have a heart condition.
  • You take medication for your heart of blood pressure.
  • You are an insulin dependent diabetic.
  • You have pain or pressure in your chest, shoulders, arms or neck at rest or with exertion.
  • You feel breathless after mild exertion.
  • You have a history of fainting-spells or falling over due to dizziness.
  • You have a bone or joint problem that you could make worse with physical activity.
  • You are over 40 years of age, have not been physically active and plan a relatively vigorous exercise program.

How can I stay motivated to stay with the program?

  • Be sure you enjoy the activities you choose. For example, do not ask yourself to use a bike that you find uncomfortable.
  • Try to vary your activities. Two walking sessions combined with two swimming or aerobic dance sessions each week may keep you from becoming bored with exercise.
  • Join a health club or exercise with a friend or group of friends. That way you can help keep each other on track.
  • Keep a workout log of your progress. Set realistic goals and reward yourself, even in small ways, when you achieve them.

Guidelines for Safe Exercise

Warm-up and cool-down. Always warm up and cool down with exercise. A warm-up means starting out at a slower pace for three to five minutes to gradually increase the heart rate and body temperature. This prepares the heart and muscles for activity.

Weather precautions

On warm, humid days, reduce your pace and distance as needed and exercise during the cooler times of day. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise. Avoid overdressing; you need to allow body heat to escape naturally. Exercise indoors during ozone alerts. In cold weather, wear layers of clothing you can take on or off according to how you feel. If cold air causes you discomfort, you may want to cover your mouth and nose or exercise indoors.

Safety Tips

If you have not been active, avoid trying too much, too fast and too soon. If you stop exercise for two weeks or longer, start up again slowly. Reduce your time and pace, then increase one step at a time until you are back to your normal level.


  • Faintness/feeling lightheaded
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure

Back to Exercise!

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.