Getting Started with Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. If you’re ready to get the immediate benefits of better sleep, reduced anxiety, and lower blood pressure, here are ways to get started:

  • Look for ways to reduce time sitting and increase time moving. For example, make it a tradition to walk before or after dinner.
  • Set aside specific times to make physical activity part of your daily or weekly routine. This diary [PDF-571KB]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 class after work.
  • Try activities with others in your household 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.
  • Federal guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week for adults. You might split that into 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

For many people, walking is a great way to become more active. See ideas on how you can begin and how your community can help:

People with chronic conditions may want to talk to their doctor about the right types and amounts of physical activity. Examples of chronic conditions are heart problems, arthritis, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Ways to Overcome Obstacles to Physical Activity

As you start thinking about ways to become more active, the obstacles might seem hard to overcome. Try these strategies:

Ways to Overcome Obstacles to Physical Activity
Obstacle Try This
I don’t have time to be physically active.
  • Monitor your daily activities for 1 week with this diary [PDF-571KB].
  • Find at least three 30-minute time slots you could use for physical activity.
I don’t have anyone to go with me.
  • Join a group, such as a class at the YMCA or a hiking club.
I’m so tired when I get home from work.
  • 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.
  • Physical Activity Breaks for the Workplace [PDF-2.94MB]offers ways to integrate physical activity into the workday.
  • DeskFit [PDF-1.27MB] suggests 20 ways you can be active without leaving your office.
I have so much on my “to do” list already, how can I do physical activity too?
  • Plan ahead. Make physical activity a regular part of your daily or weekly schedule by writing it on your calendar.
  • The Move Your Way: Tips for Busy Days video suggests ways to add physical activity to your schedule.
I’ll probably hurt myself if I try to be more physically active.
  • 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 at my age!
  • Walk if you are able.
  • If your mobility is limited, see DeskFit [PDF-1.27MB] for ideas of things you can do.
  • Consider community or online resources that offer physical activity programs specifically for older adults.
  • Try a variety of activities to find something you can learn.
My job requires me to be on the road; it’s impossible for me to be physically active.
  • At airports, walk to your gate.
  • If driving, spend 10 minutes doing physical activity at rest stops.
  • Find a physical activity you enjoy and 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.
  • Watch the Move Your Way: Tips for Getting Active Indoors video for ideas of things to do inside.
I have small children and it’s impossible to have time to myself for physical activity.
  • 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.
Also see Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity.

More Information

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