USDA Exercise Tips

Getting Started

Regardless of how much time you spend being physically active and at what intensity level, you want to meet the calorie expenditure goal you set in "What've You Got to Lose?" The common goal discussed there was 250 calories worth of physical activity plus a 250-calorie food deficit a day to help achieve a one-pound per week weight loss. Check the chart to see about how much of certain activities you need to do to meet that goal or whatever goal you set. It will generally take the recommended 30 minutes or more of movement to burn up 250 calories. {Calorie expenditure chart as sidebar.}

Now construct a plan for burning the amount of calories stated in your goal. Jot down activities that you see yourself doing. What sounds interesting? What sounds like fun? About how much time would you like to spend doing them? When could you do them? How often? Do you feel like doing them at a moderately intense level or a vigorous level? Be realistic. Write down the activities you'd like to do and at what intensity level, how long you think you will do them, and how many calories you'll spend doing each activity. Make sure to include a variety of activities to prevent boredom.

Now write out a plan for each day of the week. Studies show that if people say they are going to do something and write it down, they are more likely to follow through and do it. Try to include aerobic and stretching activities every day. Add strength-building activities at least two or three times a week.

Start gradually. Consider your current activity level and add a little to it. If you're not active on a regular basis, decide which two or three days of the week you could begin to be active. After you've accomplished that for a couple of weeks, revisit your plan and set a new goal to increase your activity a little more. An effective goal might be something like:

  • Starting on Monday, I will walk briskly for 15 minutes before and after work three days this week.
  • While watching TV this week, I will lift hand weights every other day and walk around the house during every commercial break during a one-hour show.

To motivate yourself even further, post your goal where you'll encounter it often, and share your goal with friends or relatives. Steps to SuccessOnce you've decided on a few activities to pursue, take these important steps to ensure your success:

1. Keep an activity log so you can follow your progress. Use the log provided in "Scaling Back" or create your own. Keep track of the times you were active, what activity you did, how long you did it, at what level of intensity, and how you felt during and afterward. This log can also serve as a trouble-shooting tool to see where sedentary activities creep in or what might be interfering with being active.

2. Get support. Ask family, friends, and colleagues to support your efforts.

3. Involve your family and friends. Think of things you can do together. Dance together to the radio or your favorite music, make play the focus of get-togethers rather than food, and have plenty of active toys on hand for adults and kids alike. Plan an outing that includes physical activity rather than sedentary activities.

4. Give yourself permission to take time off when you're sick or feeling especially fatigued. After you're feeling better, you can resume a low-level activity plan and work back up to your regular routine. Listen to your body, and stop activity if you have chest discomfort or pain, dizziness, severe headache, or other unusual symptoms. If they don't go away, get medical attention immediately.

5. Celebrate your successes. Give yourself a nonfood reward for reaching a goal.

These are just some of the strategies you can use to get moving. With exercise in your lifestyle, you'll be well on the way to a fitter, healthier you. Get a move on soon -- and have fun!

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.