Exercise: How to Stay Active

Frequently Asked Questions

6. How can I make exercise a regular part of my life?

The best way to stay physically active is to make it a life-long habit. When it becomes a normal part of your everyday routine, like brushing your teeth, then you'll be less likely to stop and will find it easier to start up again if you're interrupted for some reason. If you can stick with an exercise routine or physical activity for at least 6 months, it's a good sign that you're on your way to making physical activity a regular habit.

(Watch the videos on this page to learn more about making exercise a habit. To enlarge a video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner of the video screen. To reduce a video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

Here are a few ways to help you make exercise a regular part of your daily life.

Make it a priority. Make it a point to include physical activities throughout your day. Try being active first thing in the morning before you get busy. Think of your time to exercise as a special appointment, and mark it on your calendar.

Make it easy. If it's difficult, costs too much, or is too inconvenient, you probably won't be active. Do more of the activities you already like and know how to do. Walk the entire mall or every aisle of the grocery store when you go shopping. When you go out to get the mail, walk around the block. You can be active all at once, or break it up into smaller amounts throughout the day.

Make it safe. Exercise and moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, are safe for almost all older adults. Even so, avoiding injury is an important thing to keep in mind, especially if you're just starting a new activity or you haven't been active for a long time. Talk to your doctor if you have an ongoing health condition or certain other health problems or if you haven't seen your doctor for a while. (Read the answer to question #4 for health conditions that should cause you to check with your doctor before exercising.)

Make it social. Enlist a friend or family member. Many people agree that having an "exercise buddy" keeps them going. Take a yoga class with a neighbor. If you don't already have an exercise partner, find one by joining a walking club at your local mall or an exercise class at a nearby senior center. Take a walk during lunch with a co-worker.

Make it interesting and fun. Do things you enjoy and pick up the pace a bit. If you love the outdoors, try biking, fishing, jogging, or hiking. Listen to music or a book on CD while walking, gardening, or raking. Plan a hiking trip at a nearby park.

Make it an active decision. Seize opportunities. Choose to be active in many places and many ways. For example, when you unload the groceries, strengthen your arms by lifting the milk carton or a 1-pound can a few times before you put it away. When you go shopping, build your endurance by getting off the bus one or two stops earlier than usual. While you're waiting in line, practice your balancing skills by standing on one foot for a few seconds, then the other.