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Part 1. Getting Started

Photograph of a woman.

Start slowly

"The employee wellness program at my work just started a new lunchtime walking program. Some of us walk at a good clip, while others move at a slower pace. I get to be outdoors, and I feel more alert on the days I walk."

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

If you have not been active in some time, start at a comfortable level and add a little more activity as you go along. Some people find that getting active with a friend makes it easier to get started.

Is something 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 don't have the time.
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.

Write down some things you could do to get past what may be holding you back:

Photograph of a man.

Feeling good

"I recently bought an exercise bike at a yard sale. I get up early in the morning and ride. It feels good. Sometimes I can squeeze in only 10 minutes before I take off for my job. Even 10 minutes is better than not doing anything."

What can physical activity do for you?

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

Did you know?

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

Build up over time

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?

Advice to follow:


  • 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 strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.
  • Strengthening activities include push-ups, sit-ups and lifting weights (see this list for more ideas on what activities to do, how much, and how often).

Do it your way.

  • Pick an activity you like and one that fits into your life.
  • Find the time that works best for you.
  • Be active with friends and family. Having a support network can help you keep up with your program.
  • There are many ways to build the right amount of activity into your life. Every little bit adds up and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Tip: To learn how to avoid injury, see these tips.

Moderate-level activities (check off the ones you will try):

  • Biking slowly
  • Canoeing
  • Dancing
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Using your manual wheelchair
  • Using hand cyclers—also called arm ergometers
  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics

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This page last updated on: 10/16/2008

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