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Which exercise is best for you?

Do you want to lose weight? Boost aerobic fitness? Prevent disease? Do you need to build strength? Maybe you want to do all three—or more. Knowing your fitness goals can help you plan an exercise program that matches your needs.

Get started by circling all the numbered statements that apply to you and reading the corresponding recommendations.

1. I’m concerned about a family or personal history of one or more of the following:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • stroke
  • heart disease or heart attacks
  • osteoporosis
  • stress, anxiety and depression
  • colon cancer

2. I’m not very active.

3. I’m concerned about one or more of the following:

  • losing my ability to function independently
  • falling or injuring myself
  • stiff, sore muscles

4. I’m interested in:

  • reducing flabbiness
  • increasing muscle strength
  • building bone mass

5. I would like to:

  • become exceptionally fit
  • get maximum protection against heart disease
  • participate in strenuous activities without tiring

6. I don’t have much time to exercise.

7. I’m worried about injuring myself during exercise.

8. I want to lose weight.

9. I would like to extend my life span.

10. I would like to stay active and feel good as I age.

If you circled…

  1. Staying healthy is a priority. To help prevent or control the listed conditions, do regular moderate activity. Try walking (3-4 mph), swimming, cycling (under 10 mph), dancing, yard work and housecleaning. And keep the acronym “FIT” in mind:
    Frequency:at least 5 times a week.
    Intensity: at less than 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. (To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Then multiply that figure by 0.6.)
    Time: at least 30 minutes a day.
  2. You may have the most to gain from getting active. If you find a 30-minute block of activity daunting, try for three 10-minute sessions each day.
  3. Stretching exercises will help maintain flexibility and range of motion well into your later years.
  4. Aim for two or more sessions a week of strengthening activities. Old-fashioned calisthenics, handheld weights or weight machines are some of the tools you can use to build muscles.
  5. Peak performance—and maximum disease prevention—is your aim. That means a more vigorous workout that may include brisk walking, lap swimming and competitive sports. Whatever activity you choose, aim for working at 60 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate (see number 1 for formula) at least 30 minutes a day.
  6. Try sneaking fitness into your daily routine. Take a half-hour walk at lunchtime. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Use a hand mower. Every minute—and every movement—counts.
  7. Your fear is no reason to remain inactive. The trick: Choose varied activities that match your fitness level, wear proper footwear and protective gear and remember to start low and go slow. Soon, confidence will outweigh your initial fear.
  8. Follow a healthful diet, and do aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises regularly. Aerobic exercises help burn calories, while muscle-strengthening exercises help increase lean body mass and boost metabolism.
  9. You’ll be happy to hear that moderate levels of physical fitness can help extend your lifespan. Better news: The more active you are, the greater the benefit.
  10. Your best bet is a complete program that includes aerobic, flexibility and strength-training exercises. Commitment to a total program will help you feel, look and act young.