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Starting an Exercise Routine

That first step may the hardest, but it can start you on the road to wellness.

three women walking through a park

You know that exercising can help you lose weight, boost your heart health and even reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But if you’ve never been active before, it can be hard to get started.

Are you ready?

Any new exercise plan should start with a visit to your doctor. Discuss whether you’re ready to start getting more active.

If you have a health condition or a disability, ask if you should take any special precautions when you exercise. If you smoke, set a quit date so you can get even more benefit from an exercise routine.

The key to taking that first step is to be prepared and have reasonable expectations. If you have a plan, you’re more likely to stick to a routine.

It helps to consider the wide variety of activities available to you. Don’t choose a sport or a pursuit that you aren’t interested in. The best exercise is the one you will do regularly. Be sure your plan includes the basics of a healthy workout:

  • Warming up, cooling down. Whatever exercise you choose, be sure to factor a warmup and cool-down period into your workout. A good warm-up gets your body ready for more intense activity. The easiest way to warm up is to do an aerobic activity at a slower pace for a few minutes. You can cool down the same way.
  • Stretching. This step after exercise is often skipped by people in a hurry to get their workout completed. Proper stretching may help increase flexibility and improve range of motion and performance.
  • Setting goals. Over time, you want to meet or exceed the federal guidelines established by fitness experts. The guidelines for adults call for both aerobic and musclestrengthening activities. Try to exercise most if not all days of the week. You should work up to at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

At home or at a gym?

Exercising at home is more economical and convenient for many people. But it requires self-discipline. You can easily be distracted by household needs that seem more pressing. A club or gym costs more, but it offers the stimulation of other people. In addition, most clubs offer a range of activities. Don’t forget your friends and neighbors. They may want to form a walking club or join you in a new physical activity. What’s at play here is your exercise personality. Find the activity you enjoy and the setting where you’ll be most comfortable.

Have you set realistic goals?

Many people make the mistake of jumping into vigorous exercise in the hopes of faster results. If you start out too hard, you could get overly tired and discouraged. It takes time to build stamina and it takes willpower to stick to a routine. A slow and steady start can help you stay with your plan for the long haul and avoid burnout. Take that first step today. It can help make your tomorrows even better.

By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor

Sources
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans. Accessed: March 7, 2016.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Starting an exercise program. Accessed: March 7, 2016.
American Council on Exercise. Fit life. Do you know your exercise personality? Accessed: March 7, 2016.
UpToDate. Overview of the benefits and risks of exercise. Accessed: March 7, 2016.

Last Updated: March 8, 2016