5 ways to make exercise a habit

20 April 2017 by
First published: 26 December 2016

Do you want to make this new year your healthiest yet? You can with these 5 ways to make exercise a habit

The mince pies have been eaten, the Christmas cocktails have been consumed and the Christmas Day feast is now a distant memory. The post-Christmas slump has arrived. Yes, it’s that time of year where we all decide that it’s time to go on a health kick in the hope that we’ll rid ourselves of the excessive indulgence we took part in over the Christmas period.

Yet, with many of us giving up our New Year’s resolutions to be fitter and healthier less than a month into the year, it seems we aren’t all that committed to making the new year our healthiest yet.

So, what can you do to make exercise a habit that lasts beyond January? We’ve found out from Matthew Plowman at Cardiff Sports Nutrition.

Use positive reinforcement 

Temptation is all around us, but instead of succumbing to every social invite and ditching the workout, remind yourself of how good you’ll feel if you complete your exercise routine and stick to your healthy eating plan. Reinforce the message, and remind yourself of the feeling you have after you’ve worked out. It’s a well-known fact that endorphins are released when we exercise, triggering a positive response in our brain, meaning it becomes much easier to repeat that activity again. If you do miss a workout it’s not the end of the world. Make a small token gesture instead: 10 minutes of exercise in the living room, a more intense workout the next day. Beating yourself up will only make it harder to get back into the habit.

Set a goal

Having a goal to work towards will help you to keep focused. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be running a marathon a mere month after you begin exercising though. Set a small achievable goal related to the kind of exercise you have been doing. It could be that you want to run a marathon eventually, so start by setting a goal to get to 5K. Frequent repetitions of certain behaviours, such as exercise, make it easier to become something you do automatically. By building up your fitness levels over time, you’ll soon be completing exercise behaviours without thinking twice, and smashing your targets in the process.

Don’t focus on weight loss 

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is a perfect physique. Don’t be hard on yourself if you aren’t losing the desired amount or shaping up as you’d like. Changes aren’t going to happen overnight. Remember, it’s all about the long-term, not the short-term impact of making a healthy lifestyle change. Try measuring your improvements by your fitness level instead: How fast can you run a mile? How much weight can you lift? How many lengths can you now swim? These improvements will be much more motivational and give you a greater sense of achievement than the number on the scales.

Keep it varied

No one says you have to pick one form of exercise and stick to it, and it certainly doesn’t mean the gym is your only option. Exercise includes everything from a lunch-break walk to a HIIT session at home or an evening yoga class. One of the easiest ways to make exercise a habit is to keep it varied. You could try out all the fitness classes your area has on offer or set yourself a monthly plan of the different workouts you’re going to do. 

Make exercising a social event

Everything’s better when you’ve got a companion alongside you, so grab a friend or family member and enlist them in the get-fit plan too. You can still have a catch-up and break a sweat at the same time, and you’ll be able to give each other a boost when motivation is lacking and reach fitness milestones together. Exercise doesn’t need to be a solitary activity. If you haven’t got a willing partner, then team sports are a great way to make friends and create a weekly commitment.