Make exercise part of your habits
Starting a new exercise routine can be easy—just go to the gym or get outdoors and start whatever activity you’ve picked. The problem for most people, though, is sticking with the routine. That motivation you have on day one starts to fade after three or four sessions, and some are lucky if they make it to week three of their new routine.
But many people do manage to stick with their workouts, and one of the reasons they achieve this is by making their workouts habitual. When exercise is a habit, your body will notice when you’ve skipped a workout—and your body will miss it.
Here are several tips to help you establish good exercise habits:
1. Choose a variety of exercises you enjoy. Exercising doesn’t have to be lifting weights or getting on a machine for 30 minutes. It can be any physical activity you can do continuously. Walking, cycling, tennis, kickball, softball, swimming and skating are all awesome ways to exercise and have fun! Even housework can count as exercise, like mowing the lawn, vacuuming or scrubbing the bathroom—plus you’ll have a cleaner house when you’re done. Having this variety gives you options on days when there’s a time crunch or the weather is bad.
2. Give it time. Like any habit, time and repetition are keys in creating your exercise habit. The first few weeks are the hardest because you’re still finding your rhythm. That’s why it’s important to set a goal for your workout frequency during the first month. Research shows that people who commit to their workout routine for a month are very likely to keep it.
3. Make it a priority. To make a habit of exercising, it takes real commitment. Plan your weekly sessions and include backup options in case work or family life forces you to bump a session. Try to make at least one of your weekly workouts social, so you and a friend can hold each other accountable for that session.
4. Make it social. Not only does working out with a friend make it more fun, it can also ignite competitiveness, where you encourage each other to make every appointment and work out harder. The competitive nature can also help you push yourself to try harder than you would if you were alone.
5. Set goals, but be flexible. Make sure any goal you set is reasonable and achievable—but also give yourself a pass if you don’t meet it. Exercising is about getting healthy, physically and mentally. Falling short of a goal is no reason to give up. It’s simply a moment to reflect so you can try again and possibly adjust your goals.
6. Exercise, even when you're tired. At some point, you’ll be faced with feeling too tired to work out that day. As long as you’re not sick, you should tackle your exercises. You can simply try a modified version of what you’d normally do, just as long as you do something. You may find yourself feeling energized from the muscle movements, and the increase in blood flow and oxygen through your body.
7. Log your activity. Logging your activities in a fitness app or writing them in a journal helps you focus on your goals, what you’ve accomplished and what your next steps should be. It also gives you a chance to reflect on your exercises and whether or not you want to adjust your routine.
8. Be mindful of ALL your progress. Getting leaner and stronger is wonderful! You’ll feel healthier, happier and more productive. But those aren’t the only indicators your exercise habit is paying off. A steady exercise routine also helps you:
• Sleep better.
• Think more clearly.
• Feel energized.
• Lower your heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
9. When you’re in a pinch—go for a walk. When your workout plans get derailed by work meetings or the babysitter cancelling, don’t sacrifice a workout—simply go for a walk. Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking throughout the day. If you have to make three 10-minute trips to hit that goal, that’s fine! Getting outside can help relieve stress and can even be social if you bring a friend, your kids or the family dog.
10. Motivate yourself. Set a fun incentive for accomplishing your hard work. It can be whatever you want—buy yourself new workout shorts, try a new recipe at home, try a new sport, or spend an afternoon reading a new book. Whatever you choose, make it a healthy motivator to boost your exercise habits.
Another fun way to motivate yourself is with a “penalty” challenge. If you don’t meet your target number of workout sessions in a month, donate to a local charity. Whether it’s a monetary donation or volunteering a day, it’s up to you. This way, if you do miss your goal, at least you can feel good about helping a good cause.
Once your workout plan becomes a habit, you’ll look forward to you next session and won’t be wrestling with your inner thoughts to get moving. Just remember to keep things fun and be flexible with your workouts. Creating healthier habits now will help you lead a happier, healthier life.
*This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant as medical advice.