You’ve decided to become more physically active — a major step toward better health and fitness. But what’s next? Adults benefit from at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. But everyone’s goals are different, and you should tailor your exercise plan to your abilities and needs. Answer the following questions before starting a new fitness program or routine:
How fit are you now?
How much physical activity you can do will depend on your current fitness level. Find your starting point by recording your first fitness scores when you begin your program. If you continue to record your scores regularly, you can track your progress. A health or fitness professional can help you learn how to get your scores.
To assess your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition, you should record:
- Your pulse rate before and right after walking one mile (1.6 kilometers)
- How long it takes you to walk one mile
- How many push-ups you can do without stopping to rest
- How far you can reach toward your toes while seated on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you
- Your waist circumference just above your hipbones
- Your weight compared to your height, which is measured in a body mass index
Do you have any health conditions?
If you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, you should talk to your health care team before beginning a new exercise program. In general, healthy adults who plan small increases in their weekly physical activity do not need to consult a health care professional before becoming active. Don’t wait to begin moving more and sitting less throughout your day.
What activities do you enjoy?
Research shows people are more likely to continue a fitness program they enjoy. If you have a blast on the dance floor, you might want to consider an aerobics class that includes dance moves. If you prefer to workout at home, try a virtual class, walking, running or even getting some simple equipment you can use at home such as hand-held weights or resistance bands.
Next Step: Goal settingYou are now ready to set your goals! Use your answers to the questions above as a guide.
- General goal - If you are just starting out, work toward meeting the American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. Current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of the two), plus strength training.
- Specific goal - If you have something more specific in mind, such as running a 5K race, create a plan to reach that goal. Consider starting or joining a virtual group to get help with your training plan.
- Weight-loss goal - If the goal of your physical activity program is to lose weight, you may want to talk with your health care professional to determine a healthy amount to lose each week. Along with managing calorie intake, physical activity is an important part of losing weight and keeping it off. The amount of activity needed to achieve a healthy weight is different for everyone.
You may want to ask a health or fitness professional what types and amounts of physical activity to do to reach your goal.
Clear goals can help motivate you when you’re not in the mood to get moving. Tracking your progress can also help you stick with your program.