Whether you’re too tired, too busy, or too stressed, it’s easy to find excuses to put off that trip to the gym. But the fact is that these excuses we tell ourselves are potentially harmful. With the potential to reduce anxiety, increase mood, improve health and boost energy, exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and by ducking out of it, we’re putting our bodies at risk.
So why can it be such a struggle to put on those gym shoes? In short, it’s all a matter of habit. When something becomes an enjoyable part of our everyday life, we do it without thinking. But when it feels like a slog, we don’t. Simple.
The good news is that integrating exercise into your daily life isn’t as tricky as you may think. Here are five proven ways to make exercise a habit.
Get Up Earlier
Stay away from that snooze button. Research has shown that people who work out in the morning are more likely to stick to their exercise regime than those who leave it until the later in the day. After all, it’s far easier to get sidetracked by unexpected distractions in the afternoon, whether it’s work commitments or the lure of the couch.
So go set that alarm, pack your gym bag, and get an early night. You’ll thank yourself later.
Develop a Ritual
Habits are behaviors that you repeat over and over again, usually without even thinking about it. But while you may not remember when your habits began, the fact is that they all started somewhere. The good news? This means it’s always possible to create new ones.
That’s where rituals and routines come in. Whether it’s creating a healthy morning routine or spending some time on the yoga mat every night before bed, these rituals help exercise become habit.
Try ‘Habit Stacking’
If you’re struggling to make your exercise resolutions stick, why not try ‘habit stacking’? This simply means piggybacking a new habit onto an old one. Researchers at Oxford University have found that these established habits are so strongly wired into our brains already, that inserting a new intention into this network of neurons is easier than building a new path from scratch.
Habit stacking might mean telling yourself to do 10 pushups before your morning shower, or practicing some stretches while you wait for your morning coffee to brew – whichever activities you do daily without thinking.
Exercising doesn’t mean slogging it out at the gym everyday – it simply means moving more. So if the prospect of an hour-long workout sends shivers down your spine, start small. This could mean resolving to get off the bus a stop early, or doing some exercises while you watch TV – it doesn’t matter what it is, just get yourself into a ‘move more’ mindset and your body will follow suit.
Once the craziness of life gets in the way, it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons you want (or need) to exercise. Whether you’re motivated by better physical and mental health, or simply want to shed a few pounds, it’s vital that you remind yourself daily why exercising is important to you.
It might sound cheesy, but a great way to maintain that motivation is with a mood board. Simply fill it with photos, quotes and your intentions, then leave it somewhere easily visible. You’ll soon find it reminds you of all the great reasons you should exercise, even when you’re tempted to quit.
Do What Makes You Happy
Terrified of the treadmill? Easy. Don’t go near it. The surest way to make exercise a chore is to force yourself to do the things you hate. If the gym isn't your thing, that’s fine. After all, from Taekwondo to tennis, there are loads of other ways to get that heart pumping.
A good way of figuring out the best type of exercise for you is to first work out whether you like to exercise in a group, with a partner, or alone.
You may have to experiment a little bit first, but once you’ve found the perfect workout, making it stick will be a breeze. And isn’t experimenting part of the fun after all?
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