Harvard Heart Letter

How to start exercising if you're out of shape

Try some low-impact activities to ease into an exercise routine.

You know that regular exercise is good for your heart. But only about half of American adults manage the 2.5 hours per week of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) recommended by the federal physical activity guidelines. Being too busy is a common excuse, but there are bona fide reasons for not exercising. If you're recovering from a heart attack, are overweight, or are simply out of shape, 30 minutes of exercise a day may feel out of reach.

"You don't want an exercise goal that's so far-fetched that you feel like you can't even try," says Krystal Johnson, an exercise physiologist with the cardiac rehabilitation program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Some of the people she counsels are extremely sedentary or don't like to exercise. "If I can get them to commit to 10 minutes of exercise, two to three times a week, that's a start," she says. The goal is to build up gradually to 150 minutes a week.

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