Tips for Getting Started

Text Size:

Anyone can learn how to exercise and improve his fitness. Start realistically and stick with it. Once your fitness level improves, you’ll enjoy the recreational activities mentioned in this article that much more!

  • Start conservatively. Don’t try to make up for years of inactivity all at once.
  • Start with 5–10 minutes of your chosen activity, if that’s all you can do. You should feel somewhat tired when you’re done, but not so tired that you need to take a nap afterward. You should also not be so sore for 2–3 days afterward that it’s difficult to move.
  • Work up to 25–30 minutes of aerobic activity, 3–5 times per week. Increase the length of time you’re active by 10% to 20% each week. For example, if you start with 10 minutes of walking per session, increase your time by 1 to 2 minutes the next week.
  • Walking, biking, dancing, and swimming are all examples of aerobic activity, but any activity that gets your body moving and your heart rate elevated will have the same benefits.
  • To be considered aerobic, an activity should feel somewhat hard, or leave you feeling warm and slightly out of breath.
  • Try the “5 minutes out, 5 minutes back” plan. Just like it sounds, you walk out for 5 minutes, turn around, and walk back. That’s it. When that feels easy, increase your time to 7 1/2 or even 10 minutes out and back.
  • Make sure to stretch before your workouts, and sometimes a stretch afterward feels good, too. A reliable source for safe stretches is the book Stretching by Bob Anderson.
  • To build muscle and strength, do some abdominal crunches and wall presses or pushups after you do your aerobic activity. These are called resistance exercises, and you can do them anywhere.
  • To start with resistance exercise, do each exercise 10–15 times, then repeat the entire sequence two or three times. Do your resistance exercises two or three days per week. Your muscles should feel tired at the end of each set of 10–15 repetitions.
  • You can purchase exercise videos (or take them out of the library) for instructions on resistance exercise. Collage Video is an excellent resource for exercise DVDs and downloads. You can call them at (800) 819-7111 and ask for a recommendation or check them out at
  • Have a weekly exercise plan to keep you motivated. Write down what day(s) of the week, what time of day, minutes of activity, and the activity that you’ll do. Be as specific and realistic as possible, and remember that it’s not how much you do when you get started but that you simply get started (getting started is usually the hardest part). Review the past week and set new goals every week for at least three months to help you get into the habit.

Originally Published February 6, 2009

Get Diabetes-Friendly Recipes In Your Inbox

Sign up for Free

Stay Up To Date On News & Advice For Diabetes

Sign up for Free

Get On Track With Daily Lifestyle Tips

Sign up for Free

Save Your Favorites

Save This Article