Steps for Getting Started With Physical Activity

Key points

  • Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
  • As you think about ways to be more active, use these tips to get started and overcome obstacles.
Woman walking outside in winter.

Getting started

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Immediate benefits include better sleep, reduced anxiety, and lower blood pressure. Regular physical activity also helps lower your chances of getting many chronic diseases. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

People with chronic conditions may want to talk to their health care provider about the right types and amounts of physical activity.

Here are ways to get started:

Federal guidelines for adults recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. You might split that into 22 minutes a day or 30 minutes a day for 5 days. You can use any combination that fits your schedule.

Reduce time sitting and increase time moving. For example, make it a tradition to walk before or after dinner.

Set aside specific times in your routine to be physically active. This diary might help.

Start with activities, locations, and times you enjoy. For example, you might like morning walks in your neighborhood. Others might prefer an online physical activity class after work.

Try activities with others for motivation and mutual encouragement.

Start slowly and work your way up to more time or more challenging activities.

Use free apps and websites to find fun ways to be physically active or new places to put some variety in your activity routine.

Try walking

For many people, walking is a great way to become more physically active. See:

Ways to overcome obstacles

Try this
I don’t have time.
  • Monitor your daily activities for 1 week with this diary.
  • Find at least three 30-minute time slots you could use for physical activity.
I don't want to do this alone.
  • Join a group, such as a class at the YMCA or a hiking club.
I’m too tired.
  • Schedule physical activity for times in the day or week when you feel energetic.
  • Add physical activity to your workday by walking during your lunch break and taking the stairs when possible.
  • See Physical Activity Breaks for the Workplace and DeskFit for ways to be active at work.
I have so much to do already.
I’ll probably hurt myself.
  • Ask a health professional what physical activities are right for your age, fitness level, skill level, and health.
I’m not coordinated.
  • Skip the dance classes that require coordination and choose activities like walking or biking instead.
  • Look for online activities to do at home, where it will be OK if you are out of step with the rest of the class.
I can’t learn something new.
  • Walk if you are able.
  • If your mobility is limited, see DeskFit for ideas of things you can do.
  • Consider community or online resources for older adults.
  • Try a variety of activities to find something you can learn.
My job requires me to travel.
  • At airports, walk to your gate.
  • If driving, spend 10 minutes doing physical activity at rest stops.
  • Find a physical activity you can access on a mobile device wherever you are.
  • When possible, stay in places with swimming pools or fitness centers and use those facilities.
  • Take the stairs every time you can.
  • See Move Your Way: Tips for Getting Active Indoors.
I'm busy with young children.
  • Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbor, or family member who also has small children. When it’s their turn to watch the children, it’s your turn to be physically active.
  • As children get older, make physical activity a family event with bike rides or walks.


Similar content in Spanish.

More information on Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity.

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