Making a commitment to exercise

There are many reasons people decide they need to start working out. Give yourself the best reason of all — to enhance your health for a lifetime.

Fitness requires time and effort. That may be why it’s so hard for many people to get started. It may also be the reason that many people start out strong, then fizzle out. To be successful, your fitness program must become a part of your daily life, just like working, cooking, bathing and eating.

It will take many small steps for you to reach your fitness goals, so be patient with yourself. Trying to do too much too soon may leave you injured or make you quit before you experience any of the rewards.

Be certain to check with your doctor before starting a new physical activity. This is especially important if you have a medical problem, have been inactive or are overweight.

Becoming more active

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

Aerobic exercise. Each week, get at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or at least one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. Each minute of vigorous-intensity exercise equals about two minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have very similar guidelines for aerobic exercise. They suggest either 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity three days a week.

Strength training. All three groups suggest a minimum of two muscle-strengthening sessions per week. These should include exercises for all the major muscle groups. Some effective ways to do this are by:

Lifting weights Doing push-ups, sit-ups or pull-ups Taking a yoga class Working out with resistance bands

If you select the proper activities, it is possible to fit parts of your muscular endurance workout into your aerobic workout.

For example, in addition to providing aerobic exercise, running can also build muscular endurance in your legs. Swimming can develop your arm, shoulder and chest muscles.

Activities that also count as exercise

Moderate-intensity activities include:

Dancing Taking a brisk walk Bike riding Mowing the lawn Vacuuming Golfing

Vigorous-intensity activities include:

Running Riding a bike on hills Playing basketball Playing tennis Shoveling Swimming laps

You can do it!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed about trying to do so much at once – so don’t. Do some form of physical activity every day. Start out strolling instead of running. Take an aerobics class. Go for a short swim. Make exercise something you enjoy doing. Over time, chances are you’ll decide you want to step it up.

Whatever exercise you choose, remember that any physical activity you do can improve your health, so take baby steps and see where they lead you.


Haskell WL, Lee I-M, Pate RR, Powell KE, Blair SN, Franklin BA, Macera CA, et al. Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007;116;1081-1093. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? Accessed: 05/27/2010

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