Getting Started: Tips for Long-term Exercise Success

successful woman raising arms in triumph

Whether it is a structured exercise program or just part of your daily routine, all exercise adds up to a healthier heart. Walking, swimming, cycling, jogging or any of dozens of other activities can help.

Here are some tips for exercise success:

Dress for success!

  • Wear comfortable, properly fitting sneakers or flat shoes with laces. 
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that's appropriate for the weather and the activity you're doing.

Make the time!

  • Start slowly. Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week (or whatever your health care professional recommends).
  • Exercise at the same time of day so it becomes a regular part of your daily routine. For example, you might walk every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 12:30 p.m.
  • Find a convenient time and place to do activities. Try to make it a habit but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work physical activity into your day another way.

Keep reasonable expectations.

  • If you have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem, check with your health care professional before beginning a physical activity program.

  •  Look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, take the stairs instead of the escalator or take 10 to 15 minute walking or activity breaks while watching TV or sitting.
  • Don't get discouraged if you stop for a while. Get started again and gradually work up to your old pace.
  • Don't exercise too vigorously right after meals, when it's very hot or humid, or when you just don't feel up to it.

Make it fun!

  • Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting. Develop a variety of activities that you can enjoy. That way, exercise will never seem boring or routine. Walk one day, swim the next, then go for a bike ride on the weekend. 

  • Ask family and friends to join you. You may be more likely to stick with it if you have company.

  • Whenever it is safe to do so, use music or audio books to keep you entertained. Just make sure to always be aware of your surroundings! 

Track and celebrate your success!

  • Note your activities on a calendar or in a logbook. Write down the distance or length of time of your activity and how you feel after each session.
  • Keep a record of your activities. Reward yourself at special milestones with non-food items, such as a small gift or shopping trip for yourself. Nothing motivates like success!