top of page

How to Start an Exercise Program

 Image ID : 43518204 Media Type : Stock Photo Model Released : Yes Copyright : Marko Kujavic
How to Start an Exercise Program

Leading health and fitness organizations agree that adults should engage

in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity

per week. If you are ready to work towards this goal but aren’t sure how to

begin, the following tips will help you get started.

1. Get the “okay” from your health care provider. If you are unsure

whether you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program, discuss

this with your health care provider first.

2. Choose activities that you enjoy. This will make it much easier to stick

with the program. Vary your activities to avoid boredom or burnout.

3. Start low and go slow. Begin with small amounts of low intensity

exercise. For example, an inactive person could start by walking at a

regular pace for 5 minutes twice a day, 5 days per week. Slowly increase

the amount of time and intensity.

[Episodes of activity should eventually last at least 10 minutes and be

performed on 3 or more days of the week]

4. Up the intensity. Use a 0-10 scale to rate the intensity of your activity

(0=sitting, 10=highest level of effort possible). Once you can easily

complete low intensity activity, you are ready to increase your effort.

• Moderate intensity activity rates 5 or 6. You can talk comfortably

but not sing. [examples: brisk walking, biking less than 10 miles/

hour, gardening, ballroom dancing]

• Vigorous intensity *activity rates 7 or 8. You can only speak a few

words before taking a breath. [examples: race walking, jogging,

running, biking 10 miles/hour or faster, tennis (singles), heavy

gardening, swimming laps]

5. Flex those muscles. Resistance or weight training will help strengthen

muscles, build sturdy bones, and increase your metabolism.

• Strengthen all major muscle groups twice a week (legs, hips, back,

chest, abdomen, shoulders, arms). This is in addition to the aerobic

activity goal.

• Perform 8-12 repetitions of each exercise. Do multiple sets to build

more strength.

6. Plan ahead. At the start of each week, look at your schedule and write

in where your physical activity will fit the best.

7. Chart your progress. Keep track of your activity on a calendar or

activity log. It is motivating to see your progress as you increase the

frequency, intensity, and amount of time spent doing physical activity.

8. Ditch the “all-or-nothing” mentality. Even if you can’t meet your weekly

goal for activity and strength training, doing something is always better

than nothing. Refer to the FitFact, “Small ways to increase physical

activity” for ideas on how to make activity a part of your daily routine.

* 1 minute of vigorous activity= 2 minutes of moderate activity. For example,

75 minutes of vigorous activity per week may be substituted for 150 minutes

of moderate activity.

For more information on how to begin aerobic exercise and strength

training, please visit our website at


American Council on Exercise

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

American Council on Exercise® is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people to live their most fit lives. In addition to offering quality certifications

and education for health and fitness professionals, ACE also protects the public against ineffective products, programs and trends by arming them with

unbiased, science-based health and fitness information. To learn more about ACE, or how you can use or purchase Fit Facts, visit

©2013 American Council on Exercise® FF 274

5 views0 comments


bottom of page