Would you rather read a book than take a walk? Do you prefer cooking to working out? Well, you’re not alone.

We all know exercise is important for our health, yet only 20% of the population get regular, adequate exercise. If you’re among that 20%, pat yourself on the back. If you’re not, well… it’s never too late.

How Much Exercise Is Enough?

The American Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, like brisk walking, per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, like dancing.

They also recommend strength training exercises at least twice a week, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after 12 to 15 repetitions.

I’ve never finished a walk and been sorry afterward, but sometimes it’s hard to get myself out there. If you’ve lacked motivation to exercise, I hope these 10 tips will help you jumpstart to a regular exercise plan.

Exercise or Walk for Just 10 Minutes – Once, Twice, or Three Times a Day

If your schedule is too crazy to carve out a half hour to exercise, try stealing 10-minute segments to walk, dance, or do stretches. Try to repeat it a few more times each day.

Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator – at Home, Take the Stairs Twice

Stair climbing is an excellent form of both aerobic and strengthening exercise. If you have stairs in your home, try doubling your climbs by buzzing back down and up each time you use the stairs. If you live in an apartment building, climb at least a few flights before hopping on the elevator.

Dance! Either Go Out or Dance in Your Living Room

At one time I was dancing around a friend’s kitchen as we cooked dinner, and his daughter asked, “Are you drunk?” Nope, music just makes me dance.

My husband and I often dance around the house. On Sunday mornings gospel music sets us off, and in the evenings, we dance to Latin, blues or rock. Of course, our favorite is going out to dance.

Find an Exercise Buddy (or Group) for a Regular Walking Date

My neighbour lost her husband 15 years ago, and she started a neighbourhood walking group to get herself out of bed each day. We all wanted to support her, and our morning walk has become a ritual. We walk a mile or two, and the socializing has bonded us. Friends are a great motivator.

Park a Few Blocks Away When You Run Errands

City dwellers, especially Europeans, walk to do all their errands, which keeps them fit. We Americans drive from one place to the next, parking as close as we can to store entrances.

How about parking at the far end of the lot, or down the street? Park your car between destinations to add more steps to your day.

Exercise During Commercial Breaks

Are you a TV junkie? Do commercials drive you nuts? Well, use them to your advantage. As soon as they pop up, you pop up, too. Instead of heading to the kitchen for a snack, take this opportunity to jog in place, lift hand weights, or do stretches. Let those commercial breaks improve your health.

Find an Exercise Video to Do Each Day

I used to exercise with a Jane Fonda workout on cassette tape, and I still use some of her exercises in my morning routine. YouTube has some excellent workouts, ranging from 5 minutes to over an hour.

You can google “exercise for seniors,” but I’ve done some of the work for you. Here are three videos I recommend:

General Exercise

20-minute Sample Workout for Older Adults from Go4Life (20 minutes)

Dance

Fat burning Cardio Dance Workout: Jane Fonda – Doo-Wop (13 minutes)

Balance and Strength

7 Strength, Balance and Flexibility Exercises for Older Adults from Go4Life (14 minutes)

Join an Exercise Class at Your Local Y or Fitness Center

I’ve fallen in love with two classes at my local YMCA: Zumba Gold dance exercise for seniors and Qi Gong, a gentle Eastern practice like Tai Chi. If you enjoy connecting with other people, classes are a great motivator.

Walk Your Dog (or Offer to Walk Someone Else’s)

Owning a dog is a great motivator for walking. Dogs need exercise as much as we do, and it’s a guaranteed way to meet people (and other dogs). If you don’t have a dog, borrow one from a neighbour, and you’ll make a great canine friend in the offing.

Reward Yourself for Exercising

Though exercise can be a reward in itself, I treat myself to a steaming cup of coffee after my wake-up stretches each morning. Other rewards can be time with a magazine, a soak in the tub, a movie, or a 10-minute nap. Choose a low-calorie reward, or you’ll undermine your efforts.

What tricks do you use to motivate yourself to exercise? What do you do to squeeze exercise into your day? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Ann Marie MershonA retired English teacher, Ann Marie Mershon lives on a lake in northern Minnesota with her husband, Jerry, and their two dogs. She’s published three books as well as numerous articles and columns. You can read about her years of teaching in Istanbul on her blog.

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