How Do I Make a Habit of Exercise: 10 Great Ways to Build an Exercise Habit (Or Any Habit)
Regular exercise provides benefits to everyday health and well-being. It can enhance your mood, lessen depression, help you manage anxiety, help you live longer, and make you more functional in every aspect of your life. Research shows that regular exercise, resulting in moderate physical exertion, can improve brain function. In this article we will talk about a few ways to improve your chances of following through on creating a regular exercise schedule to improve your overall health.
It is far easier to build a habit than to break one, which is why we talk about eating healthy as opposed to NOT eating junk food. Exercise is no different. Trying to convince yourself to “stop being lazy” or to “stop going to bed so late”, is more difficult than trying to teach yourself to go to bed earlier or to work out a few days a week. Here are ten tips for reaching those health goals sooner than later!
Plan Short Term – If you are trying to build a new habit, don’t try to think too far ahead. If I want to “lose 50 lbs in a year” then it is easy to put off starting for another day/week/month etc. If I instead plan to go to the gym 2-3 times next week, that actually might be achievable. Thinking short term allows you to focus on something you can do today, tomorrow, or next week.
Plan Small – You need to create goals that are measurable, achievable, and able to be completed soon. It is easier to accomplish “jogging a mile without stopping” than it is to “run a marathon.” Set your goals based on your current level of ability.
Start Slow – It is easier to build up to something than it is to jump in all the way. Start with something you can commit to. This could be going to the gym twice a week for a month, which sounds less intimidating than a goal of going to the gym every day.
Get a Partner – Sometimes having someone else who is going to go with you is enough to get you to the gym on the days you just don’t feel like going. Try to choose a partner who is at a similar fitness level and who has similar goals to increase your chances of staying motivated and not getting discouraged.
Don’t Compare Yourself – When trying to get better at a sport, or get in shape, you will likely be surrounded by people who have been doing it longer, or are better than you at it. Compare yourself only to yourself. Use your small goals for motivation. If in three months you are able to bench ten more lbs, you did a great job because you improved.
Figure Out Why You Want to Do It – This is huge, everybody says they want to get in shape, or lose weight, get bigger, or get faster, but not many people are honest with themselves about why they want this. If you know that you want to lose weight because you want to be able to dance at your daughter’s wedding, that can be motivation to go on the off days.
Find Ways to Use Your Motivation – If you know why you want to develop the habit, find a way to remind yourself of it daily. Write your goals down, place reminders in places you regularly see. If you are the above person and want to dance at your daughter’s wedding, maybe you get a picture of a father (or mother) dancing with the bride at a wedding and put it on your bathroom mirror so that you see it every day. Put motivational reminders in your car so you see it on your commute and when you leave work.
Get Rid of the Scale – The scale is a liar. If you feel healthier, happier, and more satisfied with the way you look, it does not matter what the scale says. Unless you are a competitive athlete and need to make weight or track your weight, the scale is useless. My own weight can vary up to ten lbs in the space of a couple days, based on how much I have eaten, how much water I am drinking, how much I have exercised and sweat out, and how much I have used the restroom. This doesn’t mean I am actually gaining or losing ten lbs of bodyweight, it just means I am emptier or fuller. What really matters is how you feel.
Track Your Progress – Get a journal, write down what you eat, and how much you exercise. Don’t try and change anything right away, just track what you are doing. The simple act of being aware of your diet and exercise will help you improve it.
Find an Activity You Enjoy – I love to lift weights, some people love to run, some people love to play basketball, and other people love swimming. There is no one size fits all way to get in shape and be healthier. If you don’t know what you like, try a bunch of different things until you find something that fits for you.
BE NICE TO YOURSELF – Even the most fit people on the planet get sick, have an off day, or get too busy at work to make their scheduled exercise. This does not mean that you have failed at creating the habit, it means that you missed the gym for one day. No single workout will make or break your health and fitness, it is consistency over time that matters.
There are a million other tips and tricks to help you create the habit of exercise; the most important thing is that you do it. Remember if you miss a goal or skip a day, just keep going. You can do it. All you need to do is start. Stop worrying about the “perfect” plan or program and follow NIKE’s motto…..Just Do IT!!!
Business Development and Practice Manager
Coherence Associates Inc.