5 science-backed tips for building an exercise habit

Exercising is beneficial. It improves our physical health and protects our mental balance . It’s no secret to anyone. However, creating a habit of exercising regularly is another matter altogether. We have so many daily commitments that making room for some exercise almost seems like an impossible mission.

Many times we start running, going to the gym or doing yoga, but the motivation and willpower wear off as the days or weeks go by, so we give up even before we start noticing positive changes. The secret to incorporating physical activity into our lives is to create a habit.

5 science-backed tips for building an exercise habit

1. Mentally prepare yourself to persevere, at least for the first two months

A habit is a regular routine. But before we integrate it into our lives and make it something we do automatically, we have to engage. A study conducted at University College London with 96 people followed for 12 weeks revealed that, on average, it takes 66 repetitions for a new healthy behavior, whether it’s eating an apple or going for a run, to become a habit.

Therefore, creating a habit does not happen overnight. You must be willing to persevere during the first two months. You’d better make sure you plan those days well, clear space in your schedule, and anticipate potential roadblocks. That way you won’t be tempted to give in before the habit has set in.

2. Success depends on goals, so they need to be specific and realistic

Every habit starts with a goal. In fact, the goals we set for ourselves can either motivate us or sabotage us. A goal that is too ambitious can discourage us because we feel that we will never achieve it. Instead, a meta-analysis conducted at the University of California revealed that when it comes to exercising, it’s best to set specific, achievable goals.

To create a habit it is important to keep in mind that doing something is always better than doing nothing. However, the goal is not to resign yourself to this “better than nothing”, but rather to avoid adding too much pressure at the start. Setting attainable goals will avoid the frustration that comes with not being able to achieve them, and instead give you instant gratification that will keep you motivated. Therefore, establish workable routines and start with small steps that allow you to gradually progress towards bigger goals.

3. Better to reward yourself for effort than punish yourself for setbacks

In the process of building an exercise habit, setbacks are natural. There will be days when motivation or willpower is not with us. But we must keep in mind that rewards work better than punishments. A study conducted at Harvard Business School took it a step further, revealing that when it comes to rewarding ourselves, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves.

These researchers have found that flexible rewards are best used to encourage a sports routine; that is, rewarding ourselves for effort rather than results. The first goal is repetition, not great results. Treating yourself kindly and encouraging yourself with small rewards will help you stay motivated, build the habit, and stick with it. Once you establish the habit, you can start rewarding yourself for the milestones you achieve.

4. Make up for missed sessions to maintain a feeling of control

Sometimes the flow of life gets in the way of our exercise routine, even when it’s already established. Overwork, vacations, or illness can mess up our plans, and once we get out of the routine, we can feel like nothing makes sense anymore. A study conducted at the University of Toronto found that when dieters believe they have eaten too much, even though they haven’t, they are more likely to forget dietary restrictions and may eat up to 50% more than those who he’s not on a diet

To prevent all the effort you put in during the first few weeks from going to waste, the key is to make a small symbolic effort that allows you to “catch up” the lost sessions. For example, if you missed your gym session because you had to work late, you can do 10 minutes of bodyweight exercises when you get home. This will help you avoid feeling like you’ve come full circle, regain your sense of control, and be able to stick with the habit.

5. Share goals with friends to increase commitment level

Feeling social pressure isn’t always bad. If we want to create a habit, sharing it with our partner, friends or close people can be of great help in staying firm in our purpose. Researchers at the Dominican University of California found that when people write down their goals and share them with friends or family, the likelihood that they will achieve them increases by 33%.

Those who set goals but kept them to themselves had only a 50% chance of achieving them. The prospect of success increased by 75% among those who talked about their goals and shared the small goals they were achieving. Communicating your goals isn’t just about making a social compromise, but those people are also more likely to be willing to support you, thus helping you create the habit and maintain it over time.

Finally, another of the secrets to creating a habit of exercising is to choose a sport that you enjoy, that you enjoy and that excites you. Don’t get carried away by fads. You’re unlikely to make exercise a habit if you choose something that doesn’t fit your personality.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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