How to make exercise a habit

By Emma Price in Gym - 19/09/2014

You may have read our blog post on why you should make a change to your lifestyle, but this week we’ll explain just how you do that.

The key to real lifestyle change is actually forming a habit.  This is obviously easier said than done, but there are certain things you can do to make forming an exercise habit easier.

First things first, make exercise a priority in your own mind. Exercise should be a non-negotiable aspect of your life in the same way as eating and sleeping.  It is important that your friends and family recognise this as part of your personality and know that you won’t ditch a workout for just any old reason.  

Start small. Don’t be daunted by the goals that you set for yourself and the time it will take to reach them. That time will pass anyway. Half an hour is the recommended daily amount of exercise we should be getting, so why not start off with half an hour each day in the gym? You will gradually be able to increase this as your fitness improves week on week.

Habits can be defined as automatic actions that are practiced daily and often. Most people are unable to make exercise a habit as they start off enthusiastic and motivated with 3-4 gym sessions a week and give up within a few months. Sound familiar?

We are much more likely to engrain habits when it becomes a daily task. One of those things you just have to do each day so that it becomes automatic and less of a struggle.

Commit to another person- it is much harder to ditch a workout when you don’t want to let down a friend. Still not convinced? Read our blog post on why you should work out with a friend for more convincing.

Do a variety of activities to ensure you don’t consistently wear out the same muscle groups. Not only will a variety help your overall recovery, it will also ensure you are able to exercise regardless of conditions outside of your control, like weather or time of day.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle in forming a habit is yourself, you must overcome your own excuses. Too tired to exercise? Go for a run. Don’t have time during the day? Set your alarm a little earlier and have an early morning swim. Become an enabler for yourself- remove the obstacles that are providing your excuses. You won’t regret it.

This may sound extreme, but when forming a habit it’s important not to skip a day. Consistency is key and skipping a day could be detrimental to your habit forming. A good way to stick to this rule is to do a 30-day challenge. These challenges have set goals which increase day by day to build up a certain area of fitness. Don’t feel bad if you do skip a day... just start your challenge again and remove the obstacle that led to you skipping a day and prepare for it this time.

As soon as exercise becomes a habit in your life, you will wonder what you ever did before. It’s highly likely you’ll even experience guilt if you do end up skipping a day- which is good because it gives you an incentive to get back in the gym as soon as you can!

The answer to habit forming is simple, make exercise a daily ritual.