By now, we all know we need to exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says adults need a minimum of two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week along with two days that include muscle-strengthening exercise.
Unfortunately, knowing you need to exercise and actually doing it are two different things. How can you develop a fitness habit that becomes a long-lasting part of your life?
If you want to stick with it, you have to find something you enjoy doing. You have choices: there are thousands of ways to move your body. You don’t have to plod away on a treadmill to get fit, unless you enjoy doing that! Get ClassPass and try fitness classes at a variety of gyms and studios to find an activity (and a studio culture) you enjoy. Take salsa lessons. Join a hiking club. Hire a running coach. Give yourself a few months where you try as many new activities as you can and see what really calls to you.
Make It As Easy As Possible
Make your new favorite fitness activity convenient.
- Don’t join a gym across town, no matter how nice it is–are you really going to take the time to go over there?
- If you work out at home, make sure your fitness space is always uncluttered and ready for activity.
- Schedule your exercise time the way you schedule any meeting or event. Morning, night, it doesn’t matter: do it when it fits into your schedule.
- Prepare in advance so you have fewer last-minute cop-outs: lay your workout clothes out the night before or keep your gym shoes in the car so you’re always ready to go.
Rushing into any new activity is a sure way to burn out. You might get so sore (or worse, injured) that you have to take days off and fall out of the habit you’re trying to build. It’s exciting to start on a road to healthy change, but this new lifestyle takes time to build, and it takes time to really notice the benefits. Don’t get in a rush. Instead, start with two sessions per week, then three, and so on.
Starting slowly also means taking it easy in your first sessions. The body needs time to learn and adapt, so remember to rest when you need to.
Get Proper Equipment
It can be difficult to invest in equipment when you’re not sure if you want to stick with the activity, but it’s also hard to stick to the activity if you don’t have the right equipment! Proper shoes, for example, make hiking safer and more enjoyable. A proper yoga mat makes it easier for you to get comfortable in poses; a regular gym mat, for example, might not be long enough, or your hands might slip out of position.
Get in the Group
Group fitness, whether in a gym group exercise class or a fitness-focused group you develop on your own, is powerful. This study indicated an improvement in stress levels among medical students who participated in group fitness. There are other benefits, too, like getting new, easy-to-follow, safe, effective workouts every time you show up. You are also more likely to challenge yourself and get through a full workout (instead of deciding to cut it 10 minutes short when you’re on your own), and you’ll look forward to seeing your teacher and fellow students every day.
Get an Accountability Partner
“Accountability partner” is just a fancy way to say “workout buddy.” If you don’t have an interest in group fitness, a workout partner can help you stick to your plan. You need someone who’s willing to say, “Yes, we’re going to the gym today,” even if you offer up a variety of other suggestions. Your partner also needs to be someone who encourages you to complete each workout–and you need to offer the same encouragement and support to him or her.
Enjoy Your Results
Don’t get too caught up in fitness goals that focus on the scale; instead, notice how your endurance improves, how your legs get stronger, how you have better balance and coordination, and how you have more energy every day. When you take time to notice those improvements, it reinforces your efforts and makes it easier to stick with your new lifestyle.
A month will pass, and then a year. In 365 days, wouldn’t it be nice to be enjoying your fitness routine and saying, “Look how far I’ve come!” rather than, “I really wish I had started a year ago”? Developing your fitness habit starts today.