How to Get in Shape After Being Sedentary

Woman walking through a field
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Couch potatoes, beware. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with a high risk of health complications including obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But the good news is, that you can get in shape after being sedentary by changing your daily habits, eating healthier to improve your energy level and gradually adding exercise into your weekly, and then daily, routine.

Step 1

Set a realistic goal for getting in shape. Write your goal down and keep track of your progress to stay motivated. A realistic goal might be to lose 1 pound per week by eating healthier foods while also exercising for 20 to 30 minutes a day. As you get accustomed to eating better and engaging in daily exercise, you can create more challenging goals based on your improved fitness level.

Step 2

Go for a 30-minute walk everyday. Start your active lifestyle with gradual exercise instead of hitting the gym hard and wearing yourself out or causing injury. Take a walk around your neighborhood for 30 minutes three times a week, adding another day of walking each week until you are walking five to six days a week. Bring your portable music player to groove to some tunes as you walk. Make sure you warm up and stretch before your walk to get your body ready for intense movement.

Step 3

Swap your walk for a light to moderate jog at least twice a week. Once you consistently walk several days a week for one month, challenge yourself by jogging a few days a week for 20 to 30 minutes. Alternate a 10-minute walk with a five-minute jog until you can jog the full length of your workout. Warm up, stretch and cool down for each workout to prevent injury and keep your muscles flexible.

Step 4

Add strength training exercises once or twice a week for 20 to 30 minutes per workout. Diversify your workouts with light weight training to strengthen and tone your muscles while also burning calories. Use dumbbells to work your arm muscles and to hold while doing squats or lunges. Muscle helps to burn fat and keep your body in shape.

Step 5

Watch less television each day and replace that time with physical activity. The less time you spend in front of the television, the more time you have to dedicate to healthy fitness activities. You can work on your garden, wash your car or get involved in recreational sports instead of watching television to maximize your level of activity each day. Limit television time to when you are winding down at night, for no more than two or three hours a night.

Step 6

Replace unhealthy foods in your diet with fresh fruits and whole grains. As you increase your activity level, you will also need energy from food. Choose fresh produce and whole grains, which are low in calories and nutrient-rich to give you energy throughout the day. Limit your saturated fat intake from fatty meats and fried food as well to optimize your fitness efforts.


Warmups, cooldowns and stretching can help prevent injury and build muscle elasticity. Warm up, stretch and cool down before and after each workout. Consult your physician before beginning a new exercise plan to ensure safety for your health.


Check with your health-care provider before beginning an exercise program for the first time or if you have been away from fitness programs for a while, or if you have any chronic health issues.