Jan 15, 2004 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Sticking to Lifestyle Changes: Increasing Physical Activity

Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jan 15;69(2):319-320.

How do I pick activities I can stick with?

You don't always need high-intensity exercise to improve fitness and decrease health risks. Increasing the amount of moderate physical activity (like walking or gardening) has clear health benefits. Start with simple, everyday activities that are fun and easy for you to do. Walking 10 minutes a day is a good place to start for most people. Pick a few activities that you can make part of your daily routine. See the box to the left for examples.

Daily Activities

  • Park your car further away from work or from the entrance to a shopping mall.

  • Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

  • Walk upstairs every time you have something to carry up, instead of waiting for a pile.

  • Walk down the hall to talk to a coworker instead of picking up the telephone.

  • Walk to a nearby store rather than driving.

  • Do yard work instead of hiring someone else to do it.

  • Use a rake rather than a leaf blower.

  • Use a lawn mower that you push (but still gas-powered) instead of a riding mower.

  • Go for a two-minute walk around the house during TV commercials (especially food commercials!).

  • Do stretching exercises while watching TV.

  • Stand up while you're talking on the telephone instead of sitting.

Slowly increase how often and how long you do an activity. Start with low intensity and slowly increase the intensity. Don't overdo it when you start out.

What will help me stick with increased physical activity?

Set realistic goals for yourself, like “Lose 10 pounds,” “Lose 3 inches off my waist,” or “Be able to walk to Charlie's house without getting winded.” Set goals for what you plan to do in the next week. For example, “Walk 10 minutes every day and do two or three things on the daily activity list (see the box to the left).” Keep track of your progress. Use a chart or a journal to make a record of all of your activities.

Plan a time for focused activities. Develop a back-up plan for those things that sometimes happen, like travel for work, a time crunch at the office, an injury, or bad weather.

Bring your physical activity diary with you for each visit to your doctor. Ask your doctor for tips and answers to your questions. Let your doctor know the problems you are having.

How do I keep from getting bored?

Make regular changes to your activities—for example, you might change walking paths now and then, change your weight-training program every month, or take a dance class for a while. Listen to music or watch TV while you exercise. Find a partner to work out with or join a group activity. Ask family members to plan a different activity for Saturday mornings.

What if I get off track?

Everyone slips off their plan now and then. Think about what triggered your slip and make a plan to avoid or cope with that trigger the next time. Don't just make excuses, though; get back to your plan.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor.

American Diabetes Association (ADA)

Telephone: 1-800-342-2383

Web site address: http://www.diabetes.org

American Association of Diabetes Educators (to locate a diabetes educator)

Telephone: 1-800-832-6874

Web site address: http://www.diabeteseducators.org

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

Telephone: 1-800-860-8747

Diabetes web site: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/diabetes/diabetes.htm (booklets available)

Nutrition web site: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/nutrit.htm (booklets available)


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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