How to stick with a physical activity program


If you have not been physically active, talk with your health care provider before you start a program.

If you've tried an exercise program in the past that didn't work, don't get discouraged. You can start—and stick with—a physical activity program!

Remember, physical activity is something you need to continue throughout your life.

Choose activities you enjoy. If you feel adventurous, try something new. You may find a hidden talent or new passion.

  • Set a routine. Aim for getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days. For example, go for a 30-minute walk at 9 a.m. Or, you can break it up into chunks. Go for a 15-minute walk in the morning and do 15 minutes of strength training in the afternoon.
  • Set goals that are specific and realistic. You can't go from no physical activity to walking 5 miles a day overnight. Start with small gains and slowly increase your goals. If you aren't used to regular exercise, start by walking around the block once or twice. The more exercise you do, the stronger you'll get.
  • Do your physical activity with a partner or friend. Support from someone who cares about you will help you stick with your new program. Having someone to talk with will also help the time seem to pass more quickly.
  • Choose activities you enjoy. Find several activities you can do all year, such as walking, bike riding, lifting weights or dancing, so you won't get bored.
  • Keep a log of your activities and how long you did them each day. (Use the Adobe Reader required to view worksheetphysical activity log.)
  • Combine your activity with something fun. Ride a stationary bike or walk in place while you watch a TV show or listen to music or an audio book. Lift weights or do stretching during TV commercials.
  • Reward yourself for reaching goals. Buy a new DVD, go to a movie, or treat yourself to new clothing. (Do not reward yourself with food or alcohol.)
  • In addition to your regular physical activity, try to sneak bits of other activity into each day, such as:
    • Park your car at the end of the parking lot and walk to the store.
    • Take the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator.
    • Get up and walk around every hour if you have a job or hobby that involves sitting.
  • To get the right amount of activity through walking, most people need to take about 10,000 steps a day. The average person takes between 700 and 2,500 steps a day! You can buy an inexpensive pedometer to keep track of your steps. Try to increase your steps by 200 to 500 every few days.
  • Online, you can visit (The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports) for ideas of activities and tips.
  • If you break your new routine, don't be too hard on yourself. Figure out what derailed you and get back on track.
physical activity pyramid. Sparingly: sitting to watch TV, surf the internet and play games. 2-3 times a week: activities such as bowlilng, golf or gardening; strength training such as abdominal crunches, push ups or lifting weights. 3-5 times a week: Activities such as biking, dancing, skiing, swimming, walking, basketball, racquetball, tennis or volleyball. Every day: take your pet for a walk, use the stairs now and then instead of the elevator, walk to the mailbox instead of driving to the post office, park your car at the end of the parking lot and walk to the store, get up and change the TV channel instead of using a remote control.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, sixth edition
First Published: 11/27/2006
Last Reviewed: 10/23/2019