20 Exercise Tips

Try these ideas for fitting more activity into your day—and for getting more out of your daily activities.

1. Choose activities you like. A lot of different things count as exercise: dancing, walking, gardening, yoga, cycling, playing basketball. To make it easier to get moving, choose whatever gets you moving. Also, choose an activity that fits your self-identity. Do you see yourself wearing attractive clothes and bicycling comfortably to work, or wearing workout gear at the gym?

2. Piece your workout together. You don’t need to get all your exercise at one time. Ten minutes morning, noon, and night can give much of the same benefit as 30 minutes all at once.

3. Exercise with a friend. Finding a workout partner can help keep you on track and motivate you to get out the door.

4. Keep it brisk. When you walk, make it brisk, since this may help control weight better than walking at a leisurely pace. What is brisk enough? Walk as though you are meeting someone for lunch and you are a little late. You can also time your steps for one minute: 120 to 135 steps per minute corresponds to a walking pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour, a good goal for many people. If your steps are not quite that quick, trying picking up the pace for short bursts during your usual walk, on different days of the week. Over time, you’ll stride your way to a faster walking pace.

5. Take lunch on the move. Don’t spend all of your lunch time sitting. Hit the gym or go for a 20-minute walk with coworkers, and then have a meal when you are done.

6. Try a pedometer. Step-counters (pedometers) are cheap and easy to use. Best of all, they help you keep track of how active you are. Build up to 7,000 steps a day—or more.

7. Take the stairs. Use the stairs instead of elevators and escalators whenever possible.

8. Turn off the TV, computer, and smart phone. Cutting back on screen time is a great way to curb your “sit time.” Trade screen time for active time—visit the gym, or even just straighten up around the house.

9. Walk an extra stop. During your bus or subway commute, get off a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way.

10. Hunt for the farthest parking space. If you drive to work or to run errands, purposefully park your car a little farther from your office or the store. It may not seem like much, but over weeks and months, these minutes of exercise add up.

11. Make it your own. Consider buying a piece of cardiovascular equipment for your home, such as a treadmill, stationary bicycle, or elliptical machine. Home models can be more reasonable than you think, and you can’t beat the convenience. Keep in mind, though, that cheaper models tend to be less sturdy.

12. Make it fun. Try a new sport like tennis or rollerblading. The more that you enjoy exercise, the more likely you are to stick to it.

13. Make it social. Walk with a friend, your spouse, or your family in the morning or evening.

14. Sign up for a class. Check out the fitness course schedule at your local gym or community center, or the dance or yoga class schedule at a nearby studio. You may find that having the structure of a class helps you learn a new activity and keeps you on track.

15. Turn sit time into fit time. When you get busy, try to combine your cardiovascular exercise with a sedentary activity that you do already. Hop on that piece of home equipment while watching TV, reading, or returning phone calls.

16. Keep an exercise log. Monitoring the amount of activity you get each day will help to make you more accountable.

17. Walk or bike for errands around town. Leave the car at home for trips that are less than a mile or two. Cross something off your to-do list while getting in your physical activity.

18. Ask the experts. Hire a personal trainer for a session or two to help you with your weight training and flexibility training. Then you’ll have the confidence to branch out on your own.

19. Plan exercise into your day. Set aside a specific time in your schedule to exercise and put it in your planner.

20. Reward yourself. Set short-term goals—and reward yourself for achieving them. Try targeting a specific event, such as a road race or a walk-for-charity, to participate in—this can help keep you motivated. Choose fitness-focused rewards for reaching your goals, such as new workout gear or a heart rate monitor.

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