You’ve made the decision to start a physical activity program — the first major step toward becoming more active. But what’s next?

Although physical activity is individualized and everyone’s goals are different, adults benefit most from at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. But everyone should answer the following questions before starting a routine.

1. How fit are you now?

Your physical activity regimen will vary widely based on your current fitness level. Determine your starting point by assessing and recording your first fitness scores when you begin your program. If you continue to do this periodically, you’ll be able to track your progress.

To assess your aerobic and muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition, you should record:

  • Your pulse rate before and immediately after walking one mile (1.6 kilometers);
  • How long it takes to walk one mile;
  • How many push-ups you can do in one set;
  • How far you can reach forward while seated on the floor with your legs in front of you; (are your legs straight here and are you reaching toward your feet?)
  • Your waist circumference (do you mean immediately above the hipbones?) at the level of your hipbones;
  • Your body mass index, which you can easily find by using our BMI calculator for adults. 

2. Do you have any health conditions?
If you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, you should talk to your doctor before beginning a new activity program. In general, healthy men and women who plan prudent increases in their weekly physical activity do not need to consult a healthcare provider before becoming active.

3. What activities do you enjoy?
Research shows people are more likely to continue a fitness program they enjoy. If you have a blast on the dance floor, you might want to consider an aerobics class that includes dance moves. If you enjoy being around others, a gym membership or walking club might be a good bet. If you prefer to exercise alone, try workout DVDs and simple equipment you can use at home.

4. How much are you willing to pay for fitness?
When choosing your fitness options, make sure they also fit your budget. If gym memberships and home exercise equipment are too pricey, consider cheaper options for getting in shape. Your nearby YMCA or recreation department may offer discounted fitness classes to local residents.

Next Step: Goal setting
Using the answers to the above questions as a guide, you are now ready to set your goals.

  • General Goal – If you are just starting out, a simple, straightforward goal could be to work toward meeting AHA recommendations for physical activity. Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of the two, plus two days of strength training.
  • Specific Goal – If you have something more specific in mind, such as running a 5K race or completing a triathlon, create a plan on how you plan to reach that goal. Consider joining a local running club or triathlon group to get help with a training plan that will increase your stamina and strengthen your resolve.
  • Weight-Loss Goal – If the goal of your physical activity program is to lose weight, you may want to speak to your doctor to determine a healthy amount to lose each week. Along with appropriate calorie intake, physical activity is an important part of losing weight and keeping it off. The amount of physical activity needed achieve a healthy weight varies greatly from person to person. 

You may want to ask what types and amounts of physical activity are recommended to reach your goal. 

Clear goals can help motivate you when you’re not in the mood to get moving. Tracking your progress can also help you stick with the program.