How to Create the Exercise Habit

For exercise to become a healthy part of your life with impact, it needs to be done at least 3 times per week and you need to create the exercise habit.
Now you’re probably either thinking, “sure Karen, it’s not rocket science”, but while it may be obvious, it’s often easier said than done.

I am talking about all forms of exercise here. Each session doesn’t need to the same.

So here is a plan to get you started and allow you to build the habit:

Step 1: Write Down Why You Want This Exercise Habit

Really dig down into why you want this exercise habit. What will it allow you to do? What benefit will it give you? How will you feel when you have been living the habit for 1 or 2 years?
Keep the answers to these questions in a visible place and read it daily. On the days when you are struggling, having it visible will give you a kick.

Step 2: Start with a Small and Achievable Activity

Choose an activity that has a low barrier to achieve. Start with something that doesn’t cost a lot in terms of fees or the purchase of equipment. Choose an activity that is close by in location, so you don’t have the travel excuse when you’re tired. Make the activity something you enjoy on some level, if you hate it, you come up with so many reasons not to do it and you will drain yourself just trying to convince yourself to do it. A great example is 20 squats every morning. You can do it anywhere. No equipment required – you have almost NO excuses!

Step 3: Set a Schedule and Stick To It

Look at your weekly schedule and workout when you can slot it in. Choose a time where you can be in control of your schedule the most. For a lot of people, early mornings are easiest in terms of fewer disruptions and distractions. If you choose the daily squats option, it can be done in as little as 5 mins! Whatever time you choose though, treat that time as guardedly as you would an appointment with a specialist. Don’t go double booking yourself or rescheduling the workout all the time. Habits a best created with a consistent schedule.

Step 4: Reflect on How You Feel at The End of Each Week

This reflection isn’t just about how you feel physically (you may not notice a physical change week to week), this is about how you feel about the activity and your progress in sticking with exercise habit. If you have been sticking with the schedule, you will likely feel quite happy with your accomplishment. If things haven’t gone to plan in any given week, reflect on how that happened and how you could better handle and adapt the plan (if necessary), to ensure you are still consistent. Write it all down. The act of writing can help cement the ideas and thoughts in your mind for greater clarity and easier recall later. When things don’t go to plan, it is simply a way to learn and adapt. Nothing in life runs like clockwork, but being a little flexible and knowing how to adapt means you can still reach your goal.

Step 5: Adjust the Activity and Plan to Build the Fitness Habit

The great thing about keeping the change small and easily achievable as that are more likely to nail it and that feeds the desire to do more. Success builds success. When you feel like you need more challenge, revise the plan. Add another exercise to the daily routine, or alternate the exercises each day. Change the number of reps or take on more challenging versions of the exercise. Nail that, then see how you feel about joining a new activity with a 3rd party, a group fitness class a Personal Trainer, a solo or team sport. Maybe even another solitary activity like running (set time/distance goals). The options are endless but don’t leap to far ahead of your self so you can keep building that feeling of success.


RELATED HABITS READING: Habits – Understand them to Create ChangeCreate a New Habit Without MotivationThe Truth About Habits – it takes longer than 21 days