Six easy steps to create the exercise habit

  • Motivation to exercise can come in many different forms. Here are some insider tips on how to make 2023 the year you get moving.

This is a translation made by The newspaper of the note 6 simple steps to build an exercise habitoriginal from The Washington Post.

The new year is here and with it came resolutions to exercise more. Gym searches on Google tend to increase in January, as does gym membership.

While many people will start an exercise routine this week, the hard part will be sticking with it. Experts agree that building an exercise habit takes time.

“We are wired to want instant gratification rather than delayed reward,” explained Katy Milkman, a Wharton School professor and author of the book. How to change: the science of getting from where you are to where you want to be. “And most good habits are delaying gratification to do something that’s good for you.”

Motivation to exercise can come in many different forms. Here are some expert tips on how to build sustainable change.

1. Set specific goals

Being purposeful to exercise is just the starting point. It helps to have specific goals and then come up with an action plan.

“Be specific about when you will do it: Where will you do it? How are you going to get there?” Milkman recommended. “Research shows that our goals are most effective when they are really concrete and small.”

New Year’s resolutions are often ambitious, but not specific enough to convince someone to change their behavior, said Charles Duhigg, author of the book The power of habits: why we do what we do in life and business.

“What is really effective is having a plan,” he said. “And a plan must be specific. You should have a specific goal, such as ‘I’m going to run a marathon in November.’ And that means I’m going to start a training calendar that I already downloaded and that starts in February.”

2. Find your why

Michelle Segar, a University of Michigan researcher and health coach, believes the first thing people should do is think about their exercise history and identify whether their approach has worked.

Segar tells his clients to “find your why.” While people often start exercising to lose weight or get healthier, that approach is often not enough to “motivate continued exercise,” Segar said.

Instead, try to find a more meaningful “why,” such as focusing on the positive feelings you get from an activity, said Segar, author of the book Choosing Joy: How to Finally Make Lasting Changes in Diet and Exercise.

Segar suggests that would-be athletes try to reframe exercise and movement as something that can “instantly help you feel better and help you better serve the people and projects that matter most to you.”

3. Avoid “all or nothing” thinking

Rigidity and perfectionism are often enemies for the formation of an exercise habit.

In Milkman’s research on flexible vs. more rigid habits and routines, he found that people who were more flexible at the time of their workouts were more likely to keep going to the gym than the rigid group.

“Basically we found that rigid habits are a problem,” Milkman said. The reason is that people who are more rigid in their thinking often don’t have backup plans. For their part, people who allow “greater variability in their routine” are more likely to create an exercise habit. “When they hit a bump in the road, they still go to the gym,” he added.

Segar points out that “all or nothing thinking” gets in the way of achieving your goals.

“Someone might say, oh my gosh, I just can’t go to the gym, but I can walk around the block,” Segar said. “The formula to help more people stay physically active is to give them permission to be flexible with what they do and have a menu with different activities that they can order.”

4. Combine your training with something fun

Exercise can and should be fun, and people tend to repeat things they enjoy. You can make exercise more enjoyable through a technique Milkman calls “tempt pooling.” That’s why he links exercise to activities you enjoy. For example, enjoy a TV show while using the treadmill at the gym.

Milkman also recommends working out with a friend. Studies have shown that people enjoy exercising when they are with friends, as they feel the responsibility of being with someone else.

“Actually what motivates us is that we enjoy the experience,” Milkman said. “So, thinking about habits, we repeat the things we enjoy the most. Persistence is how you build a habit. The more you do it, the more automatic it becomes, the more you cling to it. So it’s a good boost cycle.

5. Be patient. habits take time

It often takes months for gym habits to form, so remember that you’re trying to create a lifelong exercise habit.

“There’s a lot of variation between people, but on average, it’s not something that happens overnight or over a couple of weeks,” Milkman said.

People should also be comfortable with the fact that habits get stronger over time, even if it doesn’t seem like things are getting any easier, Duhigg said.

“Eventually, it will feel like something automatic,” he said. “And in fact, once it becomes a habit, you probably don’t even realize it’s a habit.”

6. Motivate yourself with kindness

If you’re having trouble sticking to an exercise habit or routine, take it easy. Your struggle may be because exercise feels punishing, rather than motivating.

Practicing self-compassion, which means being kind to yourself, can actually help you achieve your goals.

To practice self-compassion, think about how you would motivate a friend to help you reach a goal.

“What kinds of things would you say to them to let them know that you believe in them and that you are there for them?” Neff said. “Then apply it to yourself.”

And if you miss a few days, a week, or even a month of exercise, don’t beat yourself up.

“If you completely fall off the wagon, which is what many do, you won’t reach your goals,” Milkman said. “That’s part of setting goals. There are other new beginnings just around the corner. So don’t give up entirely.”

Translated by José Silva

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