Before we discuss how you can turn exercising into a habit, let’s first define a habit. The dictionary says it is “A recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition.”
To make something become a habit require us to go through a three-step process:
• Selecting the activity
• Establishing a “trigger”
• Creating a reward
1) Selecting the activity
In our case, we want to make exercising a habit. By doing so, it takes out the negotiability factor. After it is a habit, you won’t even think twice about not doing it.
We all have a busy life, so it is easy to put off exercising when something else with a higher priority gets in the way. Once exercising is a habit, it is something you do mostly without thinking regardless of what else you have going on at the time.
2) Establishing a “trigger”
Part of establishing a habit is creating a “trigger” – an event that when it happens, your unconscious tells you to go do that activity. If your time to exercise is in the morning right after you get up, then getting out of bed is your trigger. If you exercise in front of the T.V., then when your favorite program comes on could be your trigger to exercise. Exercise after work and it could be the commute at the end of the work day that is the trigger for you to stop at the gym on the way home.
3) Creating a reward
When going through the process of making something a habit, we need to establish a goal. Once we reach that goal, we need to reward ourselves and set a new and higher goal. By having that “carrot on a string” hanging in front of us, it gives us the incentive to keep doing the activity until we get the reward. However, if exercising is your activity and losing weight your goal, don’t sabotage your success by using food as a reward.
A reward could be a new swimsuit a size smaller that you purchased but can’t fit into yet, or a movie after losing 10 pounds, or …; it can be anything that you want that supports your success in reaching your goal.
So How Long Does It Take to Establish a Habit?
It varies from person to person. The University College London conducted a habit formation study and found it took anywhere from 18 to 254 days for participants to establish a habit. The average was 66 days. Other studies support their 66-day findings. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you longer than average to establish your exercise habit. It will come eventually!
The point is forming a new habit (or getting rid if a bad one) takes time and commitment. But by selecting a trigger, goal and reward, you can do to make exercising a habit.
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