How can I make sure to get regular exercise?

DEAR DOCTOR K:

I know I should exercise regularly, but I just can’t get motivated. Do you have any suggestions?

DEAR READER:

Practically everyone has heard that exercise is good for you. But not many people know just how good it is for you.

For example, did you know that walking briskly for 30 minutes, at least five times a week, can do more to reduce your risk of getting diabetes than any medicine yet invented? It cuts your risk of diabetes in half.

Regular exercise helps you feel better, look great, and live a longer, more joyful life.

I exercise for half an hour nearly every morning. Here are some strategies that help me — and many of my patients — stay on course when our motivation flags. I hope they’ll help you, too.

Keep it personal. Choose activities that suit your lifestyle, time constraints, budget and physical condition. It doesn’t need to be at a gym; I have equipment in my basement. The time it would take to go to a gym just wouldn’t work for me.

You can get exercise throughout the day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. I moved from a one-level home to a three-level home about 10 years ago, and I found that my weight dropped about 3 pounds within a month of the move — just from using the stairs.

It’s OK to do it in pieces. You don’t need to exercise for 30 minutes at a time. You can do it in pieces, five to 10 minutes at a time, throughout the day.

You don’t need to sweat. When you exercise in pieces, you won’t sweat — or need to shower, change clothes and so forth. That’s fine; it still leads to healthy changes in the body.

Make it fit. Schedule blocks of exercise into your weekly schedule, and add bits of activity and recreational exercise to your day. An extra lap around the mall or some stair-climbing at home can add up. I deliberately park in a garage that’s about a half-mile from my office, even though I could park closer. That’s about a mile walk every day.

Try an app. Smartphones can’t exercise for you, but they can give you friendly reminders, track your progress and make the process more interesting.

Set realistic goals. Unrealistic expectations will set you up for frustration and failure. A better approach is to set an attainable long-term goal, such as walking for 30 minutes five days a week. Then break it down into monthly or weekly targets.

Get back on track. Even the most dedicated exercisers sometimes go astray. If you’ve been away from your routine for two weeks or more, don’t expect to start where you left off. Give your body time to readjust.

And a final tip that helps when all else fails: Rather than focus on why I don’t want to exercise, I concentrate on how good I’ll feel when I’ve finished.