How to Start and Stay on the Right Fitness Track

Getting Started

Image for exercise and motivation article Exercise's rewards have been extensively documented. Exercise is a key factor in preventing and treating conditons such as high blood pressure and has also been shown to help counter many health problems, including heart disease, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and stress. Beginning and maintaining a successful fitness routine can be challenging. Your motivation to exercise may begin as a concrete goal of losing a few pounds before a vacation or combating osteoporosis. This may later spin off into incorporating a regular exercising program into your life. Since it’s easy to come up with excuses to avoid exercise, beginning your new healthy habit may require some creativity.

  • Start slowly. Since any exercise is better than no exercise, it doesn’t matter how small your first steps are. For example, two five-minute walks a week may be all you feel comfortable with at first.
  • Read success stories. Feed your need for inspiration by seeing how regular exercise truly changes lives.
  • Set specific, realistic goals.
  • Give yourself the time. Make “exercise” an entry on your daily “to do” list.
  • Don’t expect to be perfect. Try not to punish yourself for missing a day’s routine.
  • Shop for toys. Find a fun new piece of exercise equipment, such as a heart-rate monitor or pedometer, to help inspire your workout.
  • Get support. Supportive, non-judgmental family members, friends, and coworkers can be powerful, creative allies in your quest for fitness and better health.

Establishing a Routine

Experts agree that you don’t have to spend hours at the gym to reap exercise’s rewards. You can exercise any time of day, virtually anywhere—in front of the television, at your desk in the middle of the day, even in your backyard.

Some easy-to-maintain workouts grow out of everyday tasks, such as bending, stretching, and lifting while doing housework and yard work. Other opportunities for healthy multi-tasking include:

  • Take the stairs instead of an elevator.
  • Walk to a coworker’s office instead of emailing or telephoning.
  • Recruit an office buddy to take a power walk at lunch.
  • Stand up whenever you talk on the phone.
  • Walk on the treadmill or ride a stationary bike while watching television.
  • Walk or ride your bike to the store instead of driving.
  • Do simple stretches at your desk or while watching television.
  • Plan a vacation that includes physical activities such as biking, hiking, or swimming.

Keeping Fitness Fresh

Once you’ve settled into a regular exercise regimen, you’ll still need to guard against burnout and boredom.You can break out of an exercise rut without breaking your fitness resolve. Try these tips for motivating yourself to exercise:

  • Keep a diary. Fill it with inspiring advice and a clear record of your accomplishments.
  • Find a partner or a support group. Buddy systems work well because you’re less likely to disappoint someone other than yourself.
  • Listen to music to motivate your muscles.
  • Spice up your routine. Vary your workout’s intensity; try a new sport or use different exercise equipment.
  • Reward yourself. Do something good for yourself—a bubble bath, dinner at your favorite restaurant, a new outfit—when you meet specific exercise goals.
  • Take a break. If you need to scale back your routine, don’t let it dampen your determination. Do your best to get back on the exercise track quickly.


American Academy of Family Physicians

American Council on Exercise


Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology

Healthy Canadians


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surgeon General’s report on physical activity and health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed May 2003.

National Institutes of Health website. Available at: Accessed May 2003.

National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: Accessed May 2003.