We hear it time and time again. Exercising is key for everyday health. According to the US Health Department, we should be working out no fewer then three days a week for a minimum of 150 minutes (that’s 50 minutes per workout!). Regardless of age, exercise will decrease your likelihood of developing health problems, including decreasing your risk of depression, heart disease, weight gain, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.Exercise is the cornerstone for our overall well being.
We may all know the benefits, however saying we are going to exercise and taking action on it is easier said then done. Especially with those New Years’ resolutions coming up, you may be itching to sign up for that gym membership, start up an intense exercise routine, and then within the first month stop exercising again. How do you break this cycle and turn exercise into a weekly habit?
1.Pick Something You Like to Do
It goes without saying, if you want to make exercise a daily part of your life, you have to maintain some semblance of enjoyment in what you’re doing. While running outside or on a treadmill is the most well known workout form, it’s not the only option at your disposal. Walking, swimming, racquetball, dancing, tennis, soccer, basketball, yoga, even badminton are all great opportunities to get active.
Walking is a highly underrated form of exercise. Have you ever wondered how Europeans eat so much delicious food while maintaining a healthy weight? That’s because they walk everywhere! Unfortunately for Americans, driving has decreased the amount we walk each day. To combat this. get out and walk more. Find a park or even just walk around your neighborhood. For extra incentive, a step-counter will keep track of how many steps you’re taking.
2. Find a set time to do it
Setting a time and date to workout cannot be emphasized enough. You are more likely to develop your new habit and maintain it if you establish when, where, and what time to workout. Otherwise, other commitments will get in the way. You don’t need to spend an entire day working out. All you need is 50 minutes, three times a week, involving a moderate to intense workout activity. By having a set date and time to workout, you will also be able to measure your results more effectively.
You may be asking yourself, what if I don’t have time to workout? This can be a big obstacle. Look at your work schedule and commitments and see where you can fit it in. If you can’t workout during the day, go to bed earlier and wake up earlier in the morning to workout. Yes, waking up earlier is no fun, but the feeling of starting your day having accomplished something, plus the additional endorphin rush, can be a great way to kick-start your day. If you really can’t see yourself working out in the morning, make some time during your lunch break to get out and walk or run. Or, find time right after work or between your children’s after school activities to get the job done. Remember, exercising is important. You only need 50 minutes (or 25 minutes of intense activity), and it’s worth the extra effort to make it happen!
3. Workout with a Friend, Group, or Spouse
If you have a friend or a meetup group that likes the same activity, even better. Studies have shown that long-term success is tied to having an accountable support system. One study was conducted at Indiana University comparing married couples exercising together and exercising alone. The study found that couples who worked out together had a 6.3% dropout rate. Meanwhile, the married couples that exercised alone had a whopping 43% dropout rate! It’s human nature to seek out companionship and social support, so having a buddy to workout with not only keeps you accountable – as someone is now depending on you! – but also allows you to enjoy your workout even more. As a result, you are more likely to exercise for longer periods of time and get more accomplished when you go with a spouse, friend, or small group of friends compared to going at it alone. Having someone by your side will strengthen your resolve to push yourself further towards your goals.
4. Give it time
Like all new habits, creating a workout habit takes time and patience. It will take at least 21 days before exercising becomes habitual. Don’t get down on yourself if you miss a day or don’t have a good workout. What matters most is being consistent with it each week, scheduling time to do it, and enjoying what you’re doing. Being kind to yourself will increase your likelihood of success. If you start criticizing yourself or expect too much of yourself, you will just become frustrated and give up. Instead, if you acknowledge the past and learn from it, your workout of choice will become second nature. And your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it!
CDC: Centers for Disease and Control. “How much physical activity do adults need?” (June, 2015). https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/
Experience Life. “Strength in Numbers: The Importance of Fitness Buddies” (August, 2012). https://experiencelife.com/article/strength-in-numbers-the-importance-of-fitness-buddies/
Martinez, Eliza. “Exercising With Friends vs. Exercising Alone” (n.d.). Healthy Living: AZ Central. http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/exercising-friends-vs-exercising-alone-2134.html