Have you fallen short of your New Year’s goal?
With the arrival of the new year, many of us are tackling our new exercise resolutions with gusto. We renew gym memberships, purchase new exercise equipment, and restock our wardrobe with new spandex and lycra clothing. Despite all the “new” motivators, many of us experience backsliding from our intended exercise trajectory. If you are in this predicament, this article is for you, and will help you build an exercise habit!
The benefits of exercise are impressive. Yet, the significance of this fact does not necessarily compel people to exercise. Research indicates that some 50% of persons starting an exercise program will drop out within six months (1). However, you don’t have to be part of that 50%! How?
There are simple strategies to establish, build, and maintain an exercise habit. A previous blog article addressed why we fail to exercise and provided tactics to maintain an exercise habit. Building on those strategies, this article provides additional recommendations to help you.
(First, let’s assume you know exercise is great for you and that you have a plan. If you don’t have a plan or don’t know where to start, then try some suggestions from our newly developed MyAge.fit app)
Challenge yourself in small doses
Success in many endeavors is the result of achieving a goal that can be met, despite life’s bumps and hurdles. This is also true in attaining a level of fitness, health, and well-being. A key to maintaining exercise and achieving fitness is adopting small, incremental exercise targets. We call this the ‘minimum viable exercise goal’ that is accomplishable on a regular basis. It will set you up for long-term habits of exercise. So, the first objective to build an exercise habit is to start small. And starting small can translate into a small dose of exercise — or a “10 minute march to fitness.”
10 ways to build an exercise habit
- Start small. The most common mistake in planning your exercise is to set unsustainable goals! In our culture, we are prompted to THINK big. However, IMPLEMENTING big may not be attainable. Thus, small steps — such as beginning with 10-minutes of exercise – allow you to build your exercise over time. Thus, a “10-minute march to fitness” is a firm place to start.
- Build, in small increments so you are likely to stay on track and be successful. Rather than doubling your exercise commitment after 2 months, just increase it by 10-percent.
- Attach your exercise routine to an already established habit. This can be as simple as: “I will have my morning coffee after my 10 minutes of exercise”. Or “I will walk the dog after I have done my 10 minutes of home-based strength exercises”.
- Remove barriers to make your goal easier to accomplish. Make exercise convenient and accessible. Here are some real-world examples: A colleague realized she wasn’t committing to her indoor cycling because the equipment was out of view, in her basement. However, she made exercise more convenient by relocating her equipment to a space adjacent to her bedroom. And I pack my swimming gear the evening prior to my morning pool visits to simplify my departure from the house. Simply rearranging your environment or pre-planning can maximize the likelihood that you will exercise.
- Reward yourself immediately. Once done, treat yourself to a wonderful hot shower or your favorite drink! I also log my progress so that I can view my accomplishments!
- Set up a reminder system. Use a smartphone or other device to provide you with a reminder to exercise.
- When you get off track, return quickly. Everyone gets off track and misses achieving their goals. Success depends on how you react to mishaps and distractions. The sooner you get back on track, the easier it will be to accomplish the exercise habit. Take one day at a time.
- Monitor your progress. Keep a log of your exercise. It is amazing how motivating this can be to witness your progress. I take the pen and paper approach and also use our new MyAge.fit app.
- Build accountability. Share what you’ve been doing with others. Or – better yet – exercise or participate in a community run with others! It certainly makes exercising more fun.
- Challenge yourself. There are several challenges on the MyAge.fit app you can try, which range from 7 days to 30 days.
A 10-minute march to fitness
The 10-minute march of exercise per day not only provides physical gains but also psychological benefits. Relatively short duration (10 minutes) and high-intensity exercise routines can help you achieve the goal of increasing muscle strength, power, and endurance when done consistently. Think about this: 10 minutes is much less time required for you to dress or check social media! Starting with an achievable, small, and doable exercise goal that you can accomplish even during the most difficult times, will keep you on track and lead to an increase in fitness and health. This is especially true if this is a new venture for you and a new routine.
The key to success and achieving the 10-minute march is to pick a goal that you know you can achieve even in the busiest weeks. An example could be aiming for 10 minutes of exercise that is accomplishable at home and indoors, twice a week. This may be the equivalent of walking up and down of flight of stairs 20 times or doing 5 simple exercises with rest periods. Yet, it may be tempting to set your sights on 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week! However, the likelihood that you don’t meet that goal by week 4 is greater. First, set a goal you know you can attain, even when pressed for time and motivation. Remember, small achievable goals establish long-term success, followed by increased health and fitness.
Our challenge for you: Set your 10-minute goal today. We know you can do it!
- Wilson, K. and Brookfield, D. (2009). Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Physiology, 6, 89-100