Here are some tips to help you make exercise a lifelong routine

1. Be patient and trust the process

  • Make short-term goals. Big changes don’t happen overnight. Instead of focusing on one big goal, set smaller goals that lead to your big goal.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Remember that the benefits of exercise are more than just a number on the scale or tape measure. Follow your program and know that the changes will come with time and dedication.
  • Stick with it. Everyone, at any age, can benefit from regular exercise on most days of the week. You will get the most benefits by fully committing 100% of the time. Missing even one exercise session can keep you from getting the most out of your plan.

2. Own your exercise

  • Follow a plan that is right for you. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” exercise program that is perfect for everyone.
  • Create an exercise plan that matches who you are today. Do not base your plan on what you used to do. Set goals for the way your body performs now and activities you enjoy.

3. Find an activity that fits into your schedule

  • Pick a time of day that is best for you to exercise and fits into your schedule. Put it on your calendar as an appointment.
  • If you miss a scheduled exercise class, use that time to be active in a different way, like taking a walk outside or in the mall.

4. Plan ahead

  • If your regular activity is an outdoor activity, have a back-up plan for bad weather days. You may need to join a club or community center, go to a mall to walk, or buy equipment you can use indoors.
  • Check your calendar. If you can’t exercise when you normally do, spread the missed time throughout the week on days you do exercise.

5. Track your progress

  • Keep an exercise record. Write down the type of activity you did, how long you exercised, how you felt/your RPE (rating of perceived exertion) or target heart rate and any comments you feel are important. After a few weeks, you will see how far you’ve come!
  • Consider buying a wearable digital tracker. These devices keep track of your activity minutes and how hard you worked/heart rate. You can keep track of the information on your computer to see your progress.

6. Make exercise fun!

  • Choose a type of exercise you enjoy. You may want to try new and different types of exercise and rotate them into your schedule.
  • Listen to music or watch TV while you exercise.
  • Find an exercise “buddy” or group. Exercise with someone else or join an exercise group or class and meet new people who enjoy the same activities as you.

7. Make exercise a habit

  • Remember, you are in control of yourself and whether or not you exercise.
  • It takes several months of regular exercise before it becomes a routine. Don’t quit - repetition is key to success!
  • If you have trouble staying with your program at first, remember that tomorrow is a new day, and get back to your routine. It won’t take long before you want to exercise to feel better.

8. Make exercise family fun time.

  • Exercise with your kids. It’s a great way to help them start heart-healthy habits and to spend quality together.
  • Instead of watching TV or a movie, play sports together, take a family walk or bike ride or join a family exercise class.
  • Try taking vacations that involve activities like exploring national parks, kayaking, walking tours or site seeing.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/13/2018.

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