First, figure out what setting appeals to you most, says New York cardiologist Merle Myerson, MD.
Start with this simple question: Do you want to exercise outdoors or indoors?
Depending on where you live, you might be able to walk, run, bike, swim, or ski outdoors. Even gardening, as long as you’re working hard enough so you perspire a little, can count, says Bradley Bale, MD, medical director of the Heart Health Program for Grace Clinic in Lubbock, Texas.
On the other hand, you could work out indoors at a gym or specialty fitness studio, in your home, at a community center, or even a mall (they often open early to let people walk).
2. What's Convenient?
Making your workout convenient makes you more likely to do it. You're not likely to go to a gym that's across town, or to a class that gives you little time to get there after work. You want to cut out as many obstacles as possible.
3. By Yourself or With Others?
Think about whether you want to exercise on your own or with a group. “Groups can help make time go by and [help you stick] to an exercise program,” Myerson says.
To find exercise buddies, check out fitness classes in your area. Join a club, like those for walkers, runners, or cyclists. Post a notice at your work, neighborhood, or community center; or ask a friend or two to exercise with you.
4. What Might Be Fun?
Next, consider the types of activities you enjoy, especially when it comes to aerobic exercise, which will be the mainstay of your program. The more you enjoy what you’re doing, the more likely you are to keep doing those activities and stay committed to exercise.
You've probably heard the old advice to go back to something you loved as a kid. That can work. But you might also want to step out of your comfort zone and try something you've never done before.
Maybe you'll try a sport you never got to do in school. Or you might sample DVDs or online fitness videos before you buy them to see what you like. Be willing to experiment a little until you find activities you enjoy, or at the very least, can tolerate.
Don't pick just one thing. Come up with as many activities as you can so you can rotate between them, which could make exercise more enjoyable, says Oregon cardiologist James Beckerman, MD, a WebMD heart expert.