How Can I Turn Exercise Into a Permanent Habit?


Recently there has been a discussion in my Weight Loss Support Group (if you would like to join us you can go here: ) about how hard it is for some of us to get in the habit of exercising.  I found this article in my search to find ways to help the members of my group, so instead of just keeping the info private I thought why not blog about it as well. I know for so many exercise is that one key component to losing weight and getting healthy that is the hardest to begin and stick with. Please keep in mind that you do not have to stick to just morning routine, the best time of day for you might be different for someone else. The trick is to find the best time of day that suits you and will allow you to stick to your routine.


Q & A: How Can I Turn Exercise Into a Permanent Habit?

How to make sweating it out second nature

The question: “I keep hearing that making exercise a habit is the best way to stick with it. But how do I actually do that?”

The expert: Greg Justice, an exercise physiologist and author of Mind Your Own Fitness 

The answer: There isn’t a magical way to do it, or a magical number of days it takes to do it—it really varies per person. In a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, for instance, researchers found that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to make behaviors happen “automatically.”

That said, there are definitely ways to push the process along. Justice explains that it’s best to refer to Charles Duhigg’s theory, as outlined in his book The Power of Habit, which was released in January 2014. Duhigg’s theory is called “the habit loop,” and its basic premise is that making something a habit is a three-step process.

First, you have to pick a cue, which is a trigger that reminds your brain to start thinking about the habit you want to develop (in this case, exercise). Then, you pick a reward, which will help motivate you. And finally, you actually do the routine you want to make a habit.

Now, how does “the habit loop” apply to exercise specifically? That’s where Justice comes in. First, he recommends using the morningtime as your cue. “Interruptions are less likely to happen first thing in the morning, so use your alarm clock as your cue to wake up and hit the gym 3-5 times a week. Or make a regular a.m. running date with a friend, so she holds you accountable, or leave your gym shoes by the coffee machine so you’ll see them right when you wake up,” he explains. Check out these 7 tips to become a morning workout person for a bit more help. Keep in mind, too, that just because you’re developing a habit by working out in the morning doesn’t mean you have to be a morning-worker-outter forever. Once you feel secure in the fact that exercising is a habit, then you can vary it up and sweat it out whenever. “But it’s best to be consistent at first,” Justice says.

Next, vary up your workout routine when you get out there. “You don’t have to do the same thing at the gym when you go, or go running all the time, to make exercise a habit,” advises Justice. “It’s better to do a variety of activities so it doesn’t feel like work. That way, you won’t get bored, and you’ll enjoy it more, so you’re more likely to stick with it,” he explains. Vary it up and try a morning yoga class, a morning cycling class—just make sure you’re doing something.

And finally, treat yo’self after your workout with your reward of choice. This doesn’t mean reaching for a cupcake, though, or having a thousand extra helpings of pasta because “you deserve it.” Nope, it just means acknowledging that you accomplished a goal, and doing something that makes you happy—like listening to your favorite song, calling a friend, watching a funny YouTube video, whatever.

If you stick to this loop every week, you should eventually fall into a routine so that exercising feels like second nature. Feeling extra driven? Try to establish all of these habits this year—then you’ll be set for life!


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