Diabetes Forecast

7 Tips for Starting to Exercise

By Erika Gebel Berg, PhD , , ,
Exercise Boosts Health From the Start

Here are seven expert tips for starting an exercise program for the first time or after a long period of inactivity.

1. Put safety first. If you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, talk to a physician before embarking on a new fitness routine. You may be asked to do a treadmill stress test, to ensure your heart is ready to pump harder.

2. If you take insulin or other medications that can trigger low blood glucose, it's important to keep track of levels before, during, and up to 24 hours after exercise. If levels drop below 70 mg/dl, treat the low with a fast-acting source of glucose.

3. Rather than diving into a super-intense workout program from the get-go, try easing into a new routine. "A good way to start is with lifestyle activity, starting with some stretching and more standing during the day," says Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD, a professor of exercise science.

4. If you are trying to boost how many steps you take per day, consider counting them with a pedometer. "It's not a bad tool for starting out and trying to make movement more of a habit," says Colberg-Ochs. "It helps you become more aware."

5. When you're ready, start a program including three nonconsecutive days of structured exercise per week. Include the workouts in your weekly schedule (note them in your planner or on your calendar) to make sure you have enough time for the activity.

6. If for some reason you can't get to your structured program—let's say you miss your yoga class because you had to work late—replace the session with any kind of movement you can manage, suggests Colberg-Ochs.

7. Don't be discouraged if you don't lose weight. "Weight loss is tricky. It doesn't tell you anything about body composition," says Colberg-Ochs. Typically people won't lose weight right after starting an exercise program because they are gaining muscle mass.



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test