Getting Started with Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight

Should I take any precautions before becoming more active?

People with chronic diseases, such as a heart condition, arthritis, diabetes, or high blood pressure, should talk to their doctor about what types and amounts of physical activity are appropriate.

Get Motivated!

Image: Two women walking

If you’ve not been physically active in a while, you may be wondering how to get started again. Lace up those sneakers and find some motivating ideas here.

Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • Look for opportunities to reduce sedentary time and to increase active time. For example, instead of watching TV, try taking a walk after dinner.
  • Set aside specific times for physical activity in your schedule to make it part of your daily or weekly routine.
  • Start with activities, locations, and times you enjoy. For example, some people might like walking in their neighborhood in the mornings; others might prefer an exercise class at a health club after work.
  • Try activities with friends or family members to help with motivation and mutual encouragement.
  • Start slowly and work your way up to more physically challenging activities. For many people, walking is a particularly good place to begin.
  • When necessary, break up your daily activity goal into smaller amounts of time. For example, you could break the 30-minute a day recommendation into three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions. Just make sure the shorter sessions are at least 10 minutes long.

For many people, walking offers a great way to become more active. For some ideas on how to begin, see the walking plans at the following sites:

Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles to Physical Activity

If you’re just getting started, you might face certain obstacles that seem difficult to overcome. A few examples of common obstacles and strategies for overcoming them are shown in the following table.

Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles to Physical Activity 
Obstacle Try This
I just don’t have time to be physically active. Identify available time slots. Monitor your daily activities for one week. Identify at least three 30-minute time slots you could use for physical activity.
I don’t have anyone to go with me. Develop new friendships with physically active people. Join a group, such as 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.
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. Keep the appointment with yourself.
I’ll probably hurt myself if I try to be more physically active. Consult with a health professional or educational material to learn how to exercise appropriately considering your age, fitness level, skill level, and health status.
I’m not coordinated enough to be physically active. I can’t learn something new at my age! Select activities requiring no new skills, such as walking, climbing stairs, or jogging.
My job requires me to be on the road, it’s impossible for me to exercise. Stay in places with swimming pools or exercise facilities. Or find a DVD exercise tape that you enjoy and request a DVD player with your room.
I have small children and it’s impossible to have time to myself for exercise. Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbor, or family member who also has small children. As children get older, family bike rides or walks might be another option.
Adapted from Physical Activity for Everyone: Making Physical Activity Part of Your Life: Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity.
Want to learn more?

Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight 

You are probably already aware that regular physical activity is important for good health, but did you know that it’s especially important if you’re trying to lose weight or to maintain a healthy weight?

For general Physical Activity information, see Physical Activity for Everyone.