I am a 45-year-old female who doesn't exercise, even though I know it is important. My New Year's resolution is to be more active, but I'm not sure how to get started. How should I begin?
Right now, you are in what experts call the contemplation stage of exercise. You're thinking about how to put what you want into action. Start simply by adding a little physical activity into your day whenever you can, such as walking around the block for 5 minutes before you go to work.
Consider a variety of options. One day, try working out for 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and, on another day, switch exercising to the evening. Then see if you're more consistent when you do the activity in 10-minute bouts throughout the day. Vary your physical activities to find which are most enjoyable to you.
Your environment also affects exercise success. Try working out alone as well as with a buddy, group or in a class. You may prefer certain settings, so compare exercising at home with going to a gym or park.
It will take some trial-and-error before you figure out what works best for you. Set specific, easily attainable, realistic goals (short- and long-term), so you don't set yourself up for failure. Don't pledge to run 5 days per week when you're only able to walk 2 days each week. Reward yourself when you reach a goal. That gives you something to look forward to and reminds you of your success.
When you've been exercising regularly for at least 6 months, you will have advanced to the maintenance stage—when you continue being physically active because it's become part of your life and thinking. There will be times when you relapse, which is not unusual. Just get back to your regular program as soon as possible.