5. Change Your Focus: Aim for a Little Exercise Every Day
Don’t get hung up on the length of each workout. Instead, focus on exercising on most days of the week, especially when you are beginning or resuming an exercise program, Stevens says.
"If you get into a pattern of daily exercise, it's easy to increase it," he says. The focus at first is to "show up," to do some exercise or activity most days of the week.
"The hardest part of increasing physical activity is simply getting started,” says Stevens, who works with sedentary and overweight people often. "My advice as a weight loss counselor: Make a deal with yourself. If you plan to exercise on a particular day, no matter how you feel when that day comes around, you will put on your exercise clothes and do at least five minutes. If you still feel bad you can stop."
"Most people are surprised that when they do this, they get in more exercise. Once you get started it is easier to keep going," he says. "And it's easier to increase the amount of time once you are in the habit of every day or every other day."
6. Double Up on Your Goals: Get Fit and Trim
If your goal is to get fit, you may also want to also lose weight or eat more healthfully.
If you think you can't do it all at once, think again. Research suggests that it’s often easier to make massive changes in your behavior than one or two small changes. One study in the American Journal of Health Behavior looked at 810 people with high blood pressure. Some were given two goals: to reduce their salt intake and boost physical activity. Others were given four goals: to reduce salt, boost exercise, reduce fat, and eat more low-fat dairy. Those given the most goals achieved the most.
7. Sneak in Healthier Cooking at Home
You'll have more energy to work out -- and you'll start to shed pounds--if you eat more healthfully. One good way to do that is to reduce total calories by reducing the fat content of your meals, says Victor J. Stevens, PhD, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. Keep an eye on total salt and sugar, too. Try to reduce each gradually in recipes and favorite dishes.
"Often times the family will not notice gradual reductions in these things," he says. "You can just do it." He suggests keeping favorite recipes but de-fatting them. Put in less butter, for instance, or substitute fat-free milk for 2%.