Health & Fitness

How to Make a Good Exercise Plan

If you’ve been wanting to exercise, but somehow never finding the time, maybe you should make an exercise plan to keep yourself on track. Having specific goals can help you adhere to the program.

Drawing up a plan is also helpful if you’re very busy; it will compel you to carve out your time, however brief a segment, during the day or evening. But the first few months are crucial, according to the experts from Go4Life, a division of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), in maintaining your motivation. Here are some tips from the NIA on getting started and staying with it. Before you start any exercise plan, check with your doctor on the right level for you.

What to Include in Your Physical Activity Plan:

Your reasons for being physically active.

Your short- and long-term goals.

The activities you plan to do. Include all 4 types of exercise—endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

When, where, and with whom you will be active.

Things you need to do to get started and keep going. Do you need to get new exercise shoes or clothes? Do you need equipment, like weights or a tennis racket? Will you have expenses (like health club fees) that you need to fit into your budget?

Make a plan that’s based on your current level of activity. Talk it over with your doctor.

How Much Exercise Should I Plan to Do?

Aim for moderate-intensity endurance activities on most or all days of the week. Try to do strength exercises for all of your major muscle groups on two or more days a week, but don’t exercise the same muscle group two days in a row. For example, do upper-body strength exercises on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and lower-body strength exercises on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Or, you can do strength exercises of all of your muscle groups every other day. Don’t forget to include balance and flexibility exercises.

Download and use a copy of the Weekly Exercise and Physical Activity Plan to document your ideas. Remember to update your plan as you progress.

Make It a Plan That Works for You

When you are deciding on your activity plans, you’ll want to:

Make your plan realistic based on your current activity levels and the amount of time you can dedicate to exercise each week.

Make your plan specific. Include all of the details of who, what, where, when, and how you’ll be active each week.

Make physical activity a priority. Put it on your “to do” list every day.

Make being active easy and fun. Do things you enjoy, but pick up the pace a bit.

Make it social. Ask a friend or family member to be your exercise buddy.


Here’s another online tool to help you get the recommended amount of endurance and strength activity during a given week. This new interactive Activity Planner from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Move Your Way campaign lets you build a weekly physical activity plan and then print it out. You can choose from a variety of fun and exciting endurance (aerobic) and strength exercises, personalize your activities by location and purpose, and indicate how much of each exercise you will do. Once you create your plan, don’t forget to add in balance and flexibility exercises.

Review and Update Your Plan Regularly

Adjust your plan as you progress or if your schedule changes. You may find that things like vacation or illness can interrupt your physical activity routine. Don’t get discouraged! You can start exercising again and be successful.

Go easy on yourself. You are not alone.

The sooner you resume some sort of activity, the easier it will be to get back into your routine.

Think about the reasons you started exercising.

Believe in yourself!

If you are finding that your current activities are getting easier to do, find ways to challenge yourself. You can push yourself a little further by:

Adding new physical activities to your exercise routine.

Spending more time being active.

Adding distance to your normal routine.

Increasing the intensity of your activity.

Remember to check your progress monthly to see if you need to step your exercise plans up a notch.

For more information on senior health issues, click here to visit Go4Life and the National Institute on Aging.

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