How can I be more physically active?

Darren Treasure, PhD
Sports Medicine

Strategies to help you become physically active

As people progress through the stages of change, the benefits of exercise will begin to outweigh the costs and they will become more self-confident in their belief that they can maintain a physically active lifestyle. Research has shown that different strategies are more important at the various stages of change. During the early stages of behavioral change, strategies need to be focused on increasing a person’s knowledge about the benefits of being physically active and changing their attitude toward the physically active. At the same time, a person’s confidence in being able to handle the demands of being active and to overcome barriers need to be high. Here are some tips for people in the early stages (i.e., contemplation, preparation) of change:

- Increase your awareness of the benefits of physical activity and the negative consequences of inactivity

- Increase your awareness of the physical activity guidelines for American adults

- Seek out information about how to become physical active

- Create a mental model of what life will be like for you when you are physically active and contrast that with your current self-image

- Find success stories about people similar to you

- Explore social opportunities that may help you as you prepare to start being active

- Put up inspirational messaging around the house and in places where you will see them everyday such as on your computer

Research shows and evidence support the idea that different strategies are going to be more effective at different stages of change. As you progress in your behavioral change, check to make sure that you are using the decisions you are making in terms of your program are enhancing your performance and increasing your probability of success. 
Starting physical activity can begin by finding ways to add more activity to your life and creating an environment that is more conducive to physical activity. Surrounding yourself with social situations and social support to physical activity will help too. Things like joining a walking club or a group exercise class with friends or walking with your friends and family after work are ways to combine physical activity and social aspects together. Throughout your day, there are ways to increase physical activity as well. By parking further away from things, walking to places and to coworkers as much as possible, using stairs instead of elevators, taking the longer walking route to things all can help you be active. Adding social support by telling your friends and family you want to become more active and asking them to help in support of your goal will help you in being more active. If you combine social support, with an environment that makes physical activity more possible with your desire to be more active you will achieve your goal. 
Lori Maggioni
Nutrition & Dietetics

The first step to take when you want to start being more physically active is to set specific, realistic, and attainable goals.

When you do not have a specific goal, it is difficult to keep exercising and to track your progress. The following these suggestions are easy ways to incorporate more physical activity into your daily life. Just pick one or two of them and gradually add more once they become routine:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. (It may even be faster!)
  • Go on a 15 – 30 minute walk around the building during your lunch break.
  • Instead of sitting, stand while talking on the phone and walk around. You could even do squats or lunges.
  • Dance while getting dressed for work in the morning.
  • Schedule your workouts by writing them on your calendar.
  • Be prepared by always having your workout bag with you.
  • Make the most of your TV watching: do sit-ups, push-ups, or lunges during the commercial break of your favorite show.
  • Walk over to a co-worker’s desk to talk to them instead of using the phone.
  • Park farther away from the grocery store/mall to increase walking distance.
  • Better yet, walk to the store
  • Make fitness your social time! Take an aerobics class with your friends or encourage each other to sign up for a 5K.
  • Start using a pedometer to track your walking. Pedometers are an easy tool to track how many steps you walk in a day.

Make sure to choose a physical activity that is appropriate to your current fitness level. And remember, the best time to exercise is when you have the most energy.

Here are some tips to adding activity to your life:
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk instead of driving. Or, park your car farther away and walk the rest of the way.
  • At work, use lunch hours and coffee breaks to walk around the block.
  • Take up an active hobby. Garden. Hike. Golf. Play with your kids or grandkids.

Continue Learning about Fitness

Love TV? Do This During Commercials
Love TV? Do This During Commercials
Are you a TV addict? Try this: When your favorite show breaks for commercial, get off the couch and step in place. Too much time watching The Real Ho...
Read More
How much exercise should I get each week?
Mr. Donovan GreenMr. Donovan Green
Exercise is an essential part of living a healthier life. I encounter many people who say they don't...
More Answers
5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat
5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat
Whether you're riding your bike or taking a swim, here's how to stay safe during your summer workouts.
Start Slideshow
Tyson Beckford’s Ab Regimen
Tyson Beckford’s Ab Regimen

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.