How to Make Exercise a Habit

By: XUBI STAFF

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Regardless of gender and even age, exercise should be considered an important element in everyone's daily life. Exercise has been proven to increase mood, boost energy, and help fight chronic diseases in virtually every individual that participates in a regular exercise routine. Exercise is also one of the best means available to help us prolong our lives by delaying the effects of aging. 

In a study by the National Cancer Consortium, walking as little as 75 minutes a week can expand an individual’s lifespan by 1½ years.  And if you are steadfast in your goal to walk more for a longer life, then you should know that walking an hour each may increase your lifespan by 4 ½ years; not to mention the other health benefits that come from this form of exercise.

The truth is, people start exercise routines every single day, the problem lies in sticking to the routine.  All too often people cite issues like stress, relationships, work, and time as the impediment for not exercising regularly, which in turn leads to the thought of cementing an exercise habit as an ‘impossible. 

Committing to a workout program and making exercise a habit can be difficult, but it is in no manner impossible to achieve as long as you have a plan of action.  Below are key strategies that could help you make exercise a habit that sticks.

Know Yourself 

According to Helen O’Connor, sport and exercise psychologist, you’re unlikely to make any exercise routine a habit if you choose something that doesn’t fit your personality. When you choose an exercise plan that goes well with your personality, you’re more likely to make exercise a habit that sticks. 

Many people are misled by the preconception that exercise is all about the gym. This is not simply not true. You can find fitness professionals at xubifit.com that are capable of training you at home, the office, outdoors, online and also the gym.  A fitness professional is always a great choice.  Fitness professionals are knowledgeable and can answer questions you may have about exercise like ‘’how many times should you work out in a week”, or “what exercises are best suited for you” or even “what is the best time of the day for you to work out”.

If a fitness professional is not for you, you can also find numerous fitness exercises you can do alone without visiting the gym.

Set Goals That Are Easily Achievable and Ambitious 

As you are starting out on your exercise journey, it becomes a necessity for you to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. That means you should ensure that your goals or objectives for your exercise are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound. Also, make it a priority to set goals that are easy (not too easy), yet ambitious. Don’t forget that the more definitive your goals are, the more likely you are to succeed.

1. Write down goals.

2. Include the results you want, the timeline, your motivation for the goal, and your next action step for today.

3. Post these goals where you’ll see them all of the time --- bathroom mirror or your bedroom wall. Don’t stuff them away in a journal or on a random sheet of paper. Post them.

Be Motivated, Driven and Pushed

Many people start exercise routines as a fad.  Take for instance the #1 New Year’s resolution each and every year… lose weight and get into shape.  Did you know that approximately 85% of individuals opt out of their fitness resolution by the middle of March?

Before exercising, you need to know “WHY” you are doing it.  Knowing your “WHY” gives you a purpose and a purpose helps with motivation, and the more motivated you remain, the less likely you are to give up and when you give up, you are reminded that you are giving up on your “WHY”. 

For some, their why may be an alarming test result from your doctor.  For others, visiting the gym or the park for a run may be the only way to keep ill health at bay. Thomas Jefferson once said, "if you are aspiring for something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done." 

Motivation… it’s what makes mountain climbers attempt Mount Everest despite knowing they are likely to quit or even perhaps die on the way to the top. When these climbers get to the point they’re too tired to move on, motivation sets in, and the drive to reach their “WHY” is once again renewed. 

To make exercising a habit, you must create your why, your motivation and that why must be etched deep into your mind.  Try closing your eyes and pretend for a moment that your arm is your mind; no, the brain is not the mind, the brain is the brain.  Now see in your mind that someone is tattooing your “WHY” onto your arm. See it being written onto your arm one-letter at a time.  When it’s finished take a long look at your incredibly beautiful “WHY”.

Now every time you think about skipping a day of exercise due to whatever reason, close your eyes, and have your mind bring up the image of your tattoo --- the reason you must succeed tattoo.  This action actually helps keep cognitive functioning at an optimal point. 

Never Have An All or Nothing Mindset

Although exercise should become a necessity in your life, you must remain practical and NEVER allow a do or die mindset take control of your mind.  Life happens and occasionally other things will take precedence.  Create an “IF” and “THEN” plan. For example;

IF your office meeting runs over 30-minutes, and you can’t find time to get in the 60-minute run you had planned, don’t abandon it.  THEN, adjust your mindset and adapt your routine so that you are able to get in a 30-minute run or other exercise. You have not failed if you cannot meet the original exercise routine you planned for, you have failed if you don't do it at all. 

IF you can’t get to the gym, don’t abandon it.  THEN, rather than throwing in the proverbial towel, go home and get in some bodyweight exercises.  If they work for Hershel Walker, then they’ll work for you.

What you should aim for is a habit, a fitness culture that allows for adaptation rather than rigidity. Don't let your failure to meet your high standards lead to discouragement. Even if it's below par, make a habit out of it. 

Exercise for Yourself, Not for Others

Now the question about motivation is this; are you internally or externally motivated to exercise? If you are externally motivated, you are likely to quit exercising within the first few months because you are in search of validation from others. For example, if you are exercising because you were body shamed or because you’re trying to get into a much smaller size clothing for an event, you are most likely externally motivated.  Many who fail at exercising are those who want to keep fit for the class reunion, or for the next summer, maybe for the lover, they are yet to meet. Being motivated by what you see on TV screens, social media, or pages of a magazine is a fast route to starting soon and failing early. 

Conversely, being internally motivated means, you've made a conscious decision to stick to your exercise regardless of societal standards and expectations. Exercise for the right reasons and enjoy your exercise routines.  Commonly, those who do it for the right reasons, stay in it for the long haul.

Reward Yourself and Your Body

So, what’s your “WHY”; what is it that is going to make you exceed your fitness expectation once and for all?

Everything hinges on motivation, but a day will come when your motivation will be at the lowest ebb. On such days, you'll need to create an incentive to replenish the waned motivation. It doesn't have to be something huge; you may decide to visit the spa for a massage or eat a slice of the chocolate cake you've been craving for months. 

One of the best things you can do right away to help you overcome these challenges is to instil a reward system.  Create an exercise routine with numerous milestones throughout.  For example, if you go from 5 pounds weight on a bench press to 10-pound weights, make that a milestone and reward yourself!

For instance, binge watch a Netflix series if you are able to work out non-stop for 14 days.  On the 15th day grab the remote, some low-calorie snacks and rest. This may be the indulgence you need to get yourself through the next 14-days. 

Final Words

As a form of conclusion, the words of DiSalvo is sacrosanct, "never compare yourself with other gym-goers."  The truth is, you are never in competition with anyone except yourself.

With that said, you are encouraged to compete with yourself and continually break your own records.  Careful, if you follow these steps, you might just find that exercise becomes more than a habit, it becomes an addiction. 



Sources:

https://www.self.com/story/comparing-yourself-to-others-wont-help-you-meet-your-goals

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity

https://www.lifefitness.com.au/20-fitness-motivation-quotes/

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/how-to-start-exercising

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4122430/

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