Elderly interracial couple in casual clothes walking in a spring forest park holding hands. View from the back.

“Do what you can do. Do it regularly. Increase gradually.”

This is my annual guide for readers who make the New Year’s resolution to improve their physical condition, ideally for the rest of their lives. It’s indeed possible for anyone who is willing to follow just the 10 words above.

The most important word, suitably, is the first. Resolution without action means nothing.

If you intend to DO something for as long as you live, it is unimportant what you do to start. Don’t overdo; forget the “No pain, no gain” nonsense. If all you can do is walk to the end of your driveway or to the nearest corner and back, or something similar, that’s just fine, but DO it.

Next, be regular about it. What you do for fitness should be as regular as brushing your teeth or combing your hair. Perhaps three times a week is a good starting point. That way, even if you have to do it on the last three days, you are still keeping up.

If you can start something and do it regularly, you are well on your way.

At some point, perhaps out of boredom, you will want to accomplish more. That is where “graduality” comes in, always being sure that it’s something you CAN do. You can increase what you do by one of three ways: Frequency, duration, or intensity.

For my example, you can walk another day each week, or you can walk a little farther, or you can walk a little faster. I would recommend one of the first two before trying the third. Regardless, there is no hurry to increase what you do, just that you continue to do something regularly.

I’m glad I chose walking for my example because fitness is a matter of gradual steps. Always stay within the realm of what you can do, not getting impatient to try what you can’t. Perhaps it would help to find a partner with the same purpose.

My own choice, obvious from this column, is to swim. I still swim the same three times a week I started with. I swim 1,000 yards (40 lengths of the county pool in Bluffton), but I vary the intensity to meet my particular goals. It works for me.

Whatever your own long-term goals are, they can be reached by resolving to follow the 10 guiding words at the top. And, please, let me know how that’s working for you.

Dr. Bob Colyer of Bluffton is an actively retired college professor, coach and author of “Swim Better: A Guide to Greater Efficiency for Swimmers & Instructors,” directed primarily to non-competitors. bobcolyer@yahoo.com