Exercise: How to Get Started

Shoes and Equipment

Shoes Are Important

For many activities, you don't need any special clothing. Most often, any comfortable, loose-fitting clothes will do. However, your shoes are an important part of your physical activity routine. Remember, you're going to be wearing them a lot. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • Choose shoes that are made for the type of physical activity you want to do (walking, running, dancing, bowling, tennis).
  • Look for shoes with flat, non-skid soles, good heel support, enough room for your toes, and a cushioned arch that's not too high or too thick.
  • If tying laces is difficult, look for shoes with Velcro® fasteners.
  • Make sure your shoes fit well and provide proper support for your feet. This is especially important if you have diabetes or arthritis. Shoes should feel comfortable right from the start.
  • The size of your feet changes as you grow older so always have your feet measured before buying shoes. The best time to have your feet measured is at the end of the day when your feet are largest. Be sure new shoes feel good on your feet while you are still in the store -- uncomfortable spots will probably not get better.
  • If you have diabetes, break in new shoes gradually to avoid blisters and sore spots.

You don't need to buy special equipment to exercise. Many physical activities -- such as brisk walking, raking leaves, or taking the stairs whenever you can -- are free or low cost and do not require special equipment.

What to Use for Strength Training

For strength training, you will often need to lift or push weights. You can use the strength-training equipment at a fitness center or gym. Or, you can use weights, resistance bands, or even common objects from your home. For example, you can make your own weights from unbreakable household items.

  • Fill a plastic milk jug with sand or water and tape the opening securely closed.
  • Fill a sock with dried beans, and tie up the open end.
  • Use common grocery items, such as bags of rice, vegetable or soup cans, or bottled water.

How to Use Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are stretchy elastic bands that come in several strengths, from light to heavy. You can use them in some strength exercises instead of weights.

  1. Lay the band flat in your hand with the end toward your pinky finger.
  2. Wrap the long end of the band around the back of your hand.
  3. Grasp firmly.

If you are a beginner, try exercising without the band until you are comfortable, then add the band. Choose a light band if you are just starting to exercise, and move on to a stronger band when you can do 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions easily.

Hold on to the band tightly (some bands have handles), or wrap it around your hand or foot to keep it from slipping and causing possible injury. Do the exercises in a slow, controlled manner, and don't let the band snap back.

Using a Step Counter (Pedometer)

Step counters, also called pedometers, can help you keep track of your endurance activity, set goals, and measure progress. Most inactive people get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and some very inactive people get only 2,000 steps a day.

Wear the step counter for a few days to see how you're doing. If you get:

  • Fewer than 5,000 steps a day, gradually try to add 3,000 to 4,000 more steps a day.
  • About 8,000 steps a day, you're probably meeting the recommended activity target.
  • 10,000 or more steps a day, you can be confident that you're getting an adequate amount of endurance activity.
  • 10,000 steps a day comfortably, try for 15,000 steps a day, which would put you in the high-activity group.