Need More Exercise? 7 Tips to Help You Get Moving

Andrew Lam, MD is a board-certified primary care physician practicing family medicine at Fairfax Family Practice . Dr. Lam is passionate about making medical concepts easy to understand so that people of all ages can take better care of their health. He guides patients to wellness both in his practice and through the “Well on Your Way Medical Podcast.”

Aaahh, exercise. You know you should do it. You even know it will make you feel great. But too often, it’s hard to get started and even tougher to keep an exercise habit going.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week. But that goal may feel daunting — especially if a winter of hibernating has left you somewhat inactive. And you’re not alone if you feel that way: One out of every four Americans admits they don’t do any physical activity outside of their regular job.

The good news is that when it comes to exercise, any activity is better than no activity at all. And it’s easier than you think to get started or to take your current activity to the next level. These seven tips will help you get up and moving:

1. Recognize That Movement Matters at Every Age

A big part of motivation for exercise is understanding what you’re getting from it, especially because the benefits of exercise aren’t always visible. Even if you don’t have a six-pack or sculpted calves, your health is reaping the rewards of your hard work. Research shows that even if you don’t lose weight, exercise still improves your health in significant ways and lowers your risk of premature death by 30%.

Exercise impacts how the body functions in every stage of life:

  • Childhood & adolescence: Regular physical activity at a young age sets you up for a healthier life — it lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
  • Adulthood: Regular movement helps keep inflammation in check, lowering the risk of developing a chronic disease.  
  • Pregnancy: Exercise helps prevent a lot of complications in pregnancy, such as preterm birth and gestational diabetes.
  • Elderhood: Physical activity is associated with a decreased risk of falling and breaking bones in your later years.

2. Find Your “Why”

Even if you have a good understanding of the health benefits of exercise, you need to make your motivation personal. Figure out why exercising is important to you: What do you hope to accomplish? Why are you doing this?

For some people, exercise accomplishes a very specific medical goal, such as alleviating mental health issues or keeping back pain at bay. But others may need to visualize the results. Maybe you want to walk your child down the aisle someday. Or you’re an expectant parent who wants the energy to play with your baby. Make your “why” crystal-clear in your mind — it will motivate you to lace up your sneakers.

3. Assess Your Current Fitness Level

Being realistic about your current fitness and activity level can help you avoid injury, frustration and disappointment. Take an honest look at how much you move each day and your physical health.

Choose physical activities that match your fitness level (and ones that you enjoy). If you have any heart or lung conditions, or tend to pass out easily, talk to your primary care provider (PCP) about their recommendations for an exercise regimen.

4. Start Small and Plan for Progress

Any increase in physical activity will improve your health, so start small. Setting unrealistic goals will only leave you discouraged and possibly injured. Let your body get used to lower levels of exercise. Then slightly increase the intensity or time spent exercising each week.

Keep in mind that increasing intensity offers more bang for the buck when it comes to heart health. The end goal is 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at one time — workouts that make it hard for you to sing while doing them. But remember, progress is progress. So periodically increasing your workouts in some small way will eventually get you to that goal.

5. Mix Up Your Workouts

You may really enjoy walking or find that you love pumping iron. But your best bet is to include both in your workout regimen. Cardiovascular exercise and strength training are both important and have different effects on your health. Cardio is essential for a healthy heart and lungs. Strength training improves your metabolism and helps you maintain balance and posture while preventing bone and joint issues like arthritis.

Switching up the types of workouts you do will also prevent overuse of one muscle group. As a bonus, it’ll keep your workouts from getting monotonous.

6. Find a Routine That Works for You

It will be easier to make exercise a habit if the workouts work for you. For some people, that means scheduling exercise at the same time each day. Others have more success when they have a partner holding them accountable.

No matter how you choose to fit exercise into your routine, make sure it doesn’t compromise other factors that contribute to your wellness. You shouldn’t be skipping lunch to work out or lessening your sleep time to exercise — the health effects of exercise decrease when you’re sleep-deprived.

7. Sneak More Exercise Into Your Day

The goal is to work up to at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise each day. But if you’re just getting started or want to add some extra activity, there are ways to incorporate movement throughout the day:

  • Choose the stairs at work, starting with just one flight
  • Park further away than normal, moving back even more each week
  • Take your dog walk up a notch, walking the dog faster and working up to a run
  • Use a pedometer, trying to increase your steps each day

If you are starting a new exercise program or want guidance about exercise, schedule an appointment with your PCP. If you do not have a PCP, we welcome you to make an appointment with a provider at any of our Primary Care locations.

1 Comment

  1. Kobe on May 18, 2022 at 7:02 am

    Exercises can be performed and learned in a variety of ways. It is not essential to visit a high-quality gym or engage in any other activity. If motivation is high, anyone can achieve results by doing new workouts in a natural way.

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