There is no question that regular exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle. Even though research has shown that it’s diet, not exercise, that makes a bigger difference in weight loss, working out has many benefits.
Regular exercise is linked to improved mood and reduced anxiety. Research has confirmed time and again that a lack of regular exercise increases your risk of developing a chronic disease. And recent research at UCLA that looked at the links between a low-activity lifestyle and food intake found that when people are more sedentary, they tend to crave more indulgent foods.
Also, for many people, exercise is often a “gateway habit.” These are small choices that may not have a life-altering effect on their own, but often trigger other habit changes, such as eating healthier, and lead to a larger lifestyle adjustment.
So no matter what your health goals might be, exercise should be incorporated. Here are 7 tips to start an exercise routine that will stick.
1. Start With Something Fun
No pain, no gain? That doesn’t have to be the case! If you want to build an exercise routine that is going to stick, start by doing something you enjoy. If you enjoy the outdoors, commit to a bike ride or hike a couple times a week. If being in the water is your jam, join your local pool. Do you love to dance whenever you hear music playing? There are plenty of exercise classes created for people who love to move to music, whether it’s Zumba, spin class, or old-school Jazzercize.
2. Be Realistic
Our culture is a little obsessed with fast transformations, but exercise is a long-term commitment to better health, not a quick fix! Be realistic about what your body is ready for and avoid exercise routines that will overwhelm you or put you at risk for injury. Slowly work up to more strenuous exercise. There’s no rush! You’ve got your entire life ahead of you to improve your physical fitness, one day at a time.
3. Adjust Your Schedule
Let’s be honest, simply saying you want to exercise isn’t going to make it happen. We live busy lives and most of us will find that a trip to the gym keeps getting pushed further down on our to-do list if we’re not intentional.
Orient your schedule around your new exercise routine. What time of day will you go? Will this commitment require you to go to bed earlier or give up on another activity? Prepare in advance by adjusting your schedule to accommodate it and establish the routines you’ll need, like setting out your workout clothes the night before.
4. Decide Now, Act Later
Don’t trust future you to make decisions such as when you will exercise or what you will do to get your heart rate up. Sit down at the beginning of each week or once a month and map out your exercise plans in advance. Put it on your calendar the way you would any meeting or work commitment. Along the same lines, if you can’t make a workout, reschedule it the way you would any other important meeting. Even create an agenda, making notes about what you’d like to accomplish during your exercise time.
5. Phone a Friend
Some personalities are motivated by their own goals, but many people need a little extra accountability to stay on track with their commitments. Find a friend who has similar goals and do it together. Alternatively, make a public commitment on social media and ask friends to follow up with you to make sure you’re still getting regular exercise for two weeks, three months, or even a year after you make your announcement.
6. Pay Attention to Short-Term Benefits
Long-term goals aren’t the only way to motivate a habit change. Take note of how your new habit is improving your life right here and right now. Has your mood improved? Are you feeling more energetic? These are the benefits you will want to remind yourself of on the days when you might be tired and want to skip a workout.
7. Prepare for Boredom
Exercising won’t always be fun, even if you’re doing something you typically love. Have a few ideas written down for days when you feel like you can’t possibly go for another run to nowhere on the treadmill. Save your favorite podcast for listening to in the gym. Change up your music and add some high-energy songs. Download an audiobook you know you’ll love and listen to it while exercising. Or save a TV show you’d normally binge-watch and only allow yourself to indulge when you’re on the elliptical. Then you’ll look forward to your next workout and it will feel like a well-deserved treat!