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Getting Started and Staying Active

Physical activity is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle. To get started and stay active, make physical activity part of your daily routine, keep track of your progress, be active and safe, and talk to your doctor if you have a chronic (ongoing) health condition.

For more information on starting and staying active, see the Department of Health and Human Services’ "2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans." The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart" also has helpful information.

Make Physical Activity Part of Your Daily Routine

You don't have to become a marathon runner to get all of the benefits of physical activity. Do activities that you enjoy, and make them part of your daily routine.

If you haven’t been active for a while, start low and build slow. Many people like to start with walking and slowly increase their time and distance. You also can take other steps to make physical activity part of your routine.

Personalize the Benefits

People value different things. Some people may highly value the health benefits from physical activity. Others want to be active because they enjoy recreational activities or they want to look better or sleep better.

Some people want to be active because it helps them lose weight or it gives them a chance to spend time with friends. Identify which physical activity benefits you value. This will help you personalize the benefits of physical activity.

Be Active With Friends and Family

Friends and family can help you stay active. For example, go for a hike with a friend. Take dancing lessons with your spouse, or play ball with your child. The possibilities are endless.

Make Everyday Activities More Active

You can make your daily routine more active. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Instead of sending e-mails, walk down the hall to a coworker's office. Rake the leaves instead of using a leaf blower.

Reward Yourself With Time for Physical Activity

Sometimes, going for a bike ride or a long walk relieves stress after a long day. Think of physical activity as a special time to refresh your body and mind.

Keep Track of Your Progress

Consider keeping a log of your activity. A log can help you track your progress. Many people like to wear a pedometer (a small device that counts your steps) to track how much they walk every day. These tools can help you set goals and stay motivated.

Be Active and Safe

Physical activity is safe for almost everyone. You can take steps to make sure it's safe for you too.

  • Be active on a regular basis to raise your fitness level.
  • Do activities that fit your health goals and fitness level. Start low and slowly increase your activity level over time. As your fitness improves, you will be able to do physical activities for longer periods and with more intensity.
  • Spread out your activity over the week and vary the types of activity you do.
  • Use the right gear and equipment to protect yourself. For example, use bicycle helmets, elbow and knee pads, and goggles.
  • Be active in safe environments. Pick well-lit and well-maintained places that are clearly separated from car traffic.
  • Follow safety rules and policies, such as always wearing a helmet when biking.
  • Make sensible choices about when, where, and how to be active. Consider weather conditions, such as how hot or cold it is, and change your plans as needed.

Talk to Your Doctor if Needed

Healthy people who don't have heart problems don't need to check with a doctor before beginning moderate-intensity activities.

If you have a heart problem or chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about what types of physical activity are safe for you.

You also should talk to your doctor about safe physical activities if you have symptoms such as chest pain or dizziness.

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September 26, 2011