It’s the summer of 2023, I haven’t hosted a Free workout challenge since last September because of so many things going on in my life, the most important, recovering from breast cancer (diagnosis in Dec 2023 and single mastectomy on Feb 9, 2023. I am doing GREAT, the cancer is gone, I feel good and I myself want a challenge.
As of today I’ve hosted a dozen of these challenges to help women remember how good it feels to make their health a priority and start creating an exercise habit. That got me thinking…how long does it take to create a healthy habit?
Everyone is familiar with these scenarios: you join a challenge and you are pumped up and can’t wait to keep going OR you find that diet, THE DIET that’s going to fix you right up, OMG this is going to change your life. And you start and it goes really well but then suddenly, quickly, you lose interest or you skip a few workouts, you make excuses, get distracted and before you know it, it’s done and you’re done.
Enthusiasm and willpower can only go so far. What will help you achieve your health and fitness goals in the long run is to make them a habit!
“OK, Amy, so how do I do this?” I’m glad you asked and here is some really good information I found!
This was a really cool study: Time it Takes to Form a Habit (here is the study) Participants were asked to pick something to do that was health promoting – an activity or behavior and tie that to a daily cue.
For example, some people chose to drink a glass of water each day right before breakfast. Drinking water was the health promoting activity and fixing breakfast was the cue. Some decided to exercise before dinner; exercise was the activity and before dinner was the cue. Get it?
For each day during the experiment, participants were asked about how automatic that behavior seemed to be to them. After the study concluded, researchers found that it was an average of 66 days before an activity felt natural.
And it’s the natural or automatic element of this that’s important.
A habit is a behavior that’s often done naturally without any meaningful thought.
For example, fastening a seat belt when you get into a car. There was a time when this wasn’t a legal requirement but now the vast majority of us do it without thinking.
But 66 days?? That seems longer than the 21 days I was told it took to form a habit and the problem is that although 66 days was the average, for some people it took far longer – up to 254 days in fact.
254 days! That’s a long time!
Don’t get discouraged by this. The important thing to remember is that habits are formed one day at a time and if you want to make exercise a habit I have 9 tips that might help.
Find you WHY?
WHY do you want to create this habit, what benefit will it have on your life, how will you feel if this habit is natural or automatic. I have a workbook to help you find your own “why” statement. Just click HERE and I’ll send it over.
Set Clear Goals
Once you know your why, set clear goals: The first step in establishing an exercise habit is setting clear, achievable goals. If your “why” is to lose weight, how much? What steps will take to do this (exercise 5 days a week, eat more protein, cut out soda) Set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals to provide a plan AND motivation
Start Small and Gradually Increase:
One common mistake people make is diving into an intense exercise regimen right from the beginning. Instead, start with small, manageable workouts and gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency over time. By starting small, you’ll reduce the risk of burnout or injury, making it easier to maintain the habit in the long run.
So many Be Healthy Enough members have reached out because life got in the way and they stopped exercising all together and want to get unstuck. I coach them to start REALLY small, 5 minutes for 5 days, no more not less, Then if they can do that for a week, bump it up to 10 minutes for 5 days no more no less and so on. Kathy is a busy school teacher and she was able to get out of her slump and fit in 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week! I was so proud.
Find Activities You Enjoy
I know I preach non stop about lifting weights, working on your core, getting good low impact cardio but if you HATE these things the first step is to just get moving with movement you genuinely enjoy, whether it’s swimming, dancing, cycling, or playing a sport. By choosing activities you find fun and engaging, you’re more likely to look forward to your workouts, increasing the chances of sticking to your exercise habit and getting closer to your goal.
Once you’ve done this I really want to stress that if you aren’t lifting weights 2 times a week you are really missing out on the secret to longevity. It is truly a NON negotiable if you’re over 50 to stay as healthy and independent as you can. For more as to why here are several posts to convince you: Unleashing the Power Within: Building a Resilient Core for a Stronger You, How to become more resilient to weak bones, Benefits of Strength Training for women over 50
Schedule Your Workouts
Treat your exercise routine as important as a doctors appointment by scheduling it in your calendar. Consistency is key to forming a habit, so set specific times for your workouts and make them non-negotiable. Treat exercise as a priority and dedicate time to it, just like you would for any other essential task.
Every month I set up a workout calendar (for me and my members) and then on Sundays I spend a few minutes putting in my schedule when and where I’ll fit it in. We call these Sunday Setups. This has helped me so much.
Find an Accountability Buddy
Having an exercise partner or an accountability buddy can significantly boost your motivation. Find someone who shares similar fitness goals and commit to exercising together regularly. You can support each other, celebrate achievements, and provide encouragement during challenging times. Knowing that someone is counting on you will make it harder to skip a workout.
Don’t have one? Join our community! I’m loving our new community feature that’s private (not on Facebook) It’s great place to ask questions, get a pat on the back, get a kick in the butt when you need it.
Make it Convenient
Remove any barriers that may discourage you from exercising. Choose a gym or fitness center that is easily accessible or create a home workout space if that suits you better. Lay out your exercise clothes the night before, keep your equipment ready, and eliminate any logistical hurdles. The easier it is for you to start your workout, the more likely you’ll follow through.
Track Your Progress
Monitoring your progress is an effective way to stay motivated and track your improvements. Keep a record of your workouts, such as the type of exercise, duration, and intensity. Use a fitness app, a journal, or even a simple spreadsheet to record your achievements. Seeing how far you’ve come can be a powerful motivator to continue your exercise habit.
This has been the key for Barbra! She prints out the monthly calendar and gives herself a big check mark when she’s done AND she shares it with me for her accountability. My non-exerciser friend has now made an exercise a habit.
Be Flexible and Adapt
Life can be unpredictable, and there will be occasions when your regular exercise routine is disrupted. Instead of getting discouraged, be flexible and adapt to the situation. If you miss a workout, don’t dwell on it. Get back on track as soon as possible and focus on consistency rather than perfection.
Creating an exercise habit requires commitment, patience, and a positive mindset. By understanding your why, setting clear goals, starting small, finding enjoyable activities, scheduling workouts, seeking accountability, ensuring convenience, tracking progress, and staying adaptable, you can establish an exercise habit that becomes an integral part of your daily life. Remember, the journey to a healthier lifestyle begins with a single step, so lace up your shoes, start moving, and reap the incredible benefits of regular exercise.
Need some help try one or more of my workout programs FREE for 7 days. Click HERE to view my workout library first.