5 Tips to Make Exercise a Lifelong Habit

Mark Twain said it best: “A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it has to be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.”

Experts have said that about 40 percent of our daily activities are carried out each day in almost the exact same way. In other words, human beings are creatures of habit.

But what is a habit? 

Scientists have explained that every habit is made up of a cue, a routine and a reward. The cue is the trigger that tells your brain to go on “automatic” and which habit to use. The routine is the behavior itself (physical, mental or emotional). The reward helps the brain to figure out if the habit is worth remembering for the future.

So what does all this have to do with exercise?

You just can’t beat the benefits of regular exercise. Exercise helps control weight; build strong bones; reduce stress; promote healthful sleep; lower the risk of health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke; and may protect against certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease. Everyone can benefit from exercise – the young, the old and the in-betweens.


Here are five tips to help you get into the habit of exercising:


  1. Start slow and easy

Sometimes you have to take “baby steps” and crawl before you can walk and run. Don’t put any pressure on yourself, especially if you haven’t been active in a while. If five minutes is the best you can do, walk for five minutes. Keep at it, and you will gradually increase your fitness level to where you can walk for 30 minutes.


  1. Have a plan

Find the time that works for you. Some people exercise first thing in the morning; others take a walk during lunch time. Some people sign up for classes, such as Zumba or kick-boxing, after work. One size does not fit all. Figure out a plan that will work for you. A good friend who is a fitness trainer once told me, “The best exercise plan is the one that you will do.” Put it on your calendar. If you don’t plan your physical activity, it is likely to not happen. It may be different each day, but having it on your schedule makes it a priority.


  1. Make it fun

It’s easier to stick to a physical activity that you like. Some people like to walk with someone; others like group classes. Work out to your favorite music – you may increase your tempo, heart rate and endurance.


  1. Create a trigger or “cue”

Do something to remind you to exercise while you are forming this new habit. For some, it may be an alarm or reminder on their smart phone, while others may put their walking sneakers by the front door. Others still may organize and set out their workout clothes by the bed the night before.


  1. Repetition is key

It can take anywhere from 15 days to eight months to truly form a new habit. Keep at it – there is no failure in exercising. If you can only do five minutes, then do five minutes. Any physical activity is better than none at all. Also, identify a reward. What are the benefits of exercise for you? How does exercise makes you feel? I admit, the first couple of times are tough, and the rewards may not be evident. For me, my reward is that I feel relaxed, and I sleep better. For some, the reward is knowing you can walk up a flight of steps without getting short of breath. Others may like the way they look or enjoy the rewards of having more energy. Figure out your own reward, and stay with the exercise plan. Your body and your health will thank you.


Talk to your doctor or health care provider before beginning any type of physical activity program.


You must be logged in to post a comment Login