How To Cultivate A Regular Exercise Habit
Exercising to lose weight, lower A1C readings, or to stave off complications of diabetes will not propel most people to exercise regularly.
Though we care about our health, expectations for the future do not motivate most humans to eat better and stay active. So, focusing on why we “should” exercise may be self-defeating. What does work is to stop thinking and start reacting.
Best Chance of Exercise Success: Cues
Researchers who studied regular exercisers found those who are the most consistent workout “on cue.” They are triggered by an internal or environmental cue (e.g., alarm clock going off, leaving the office) and then exercise without thinking about it.
There is no deliberation about whether they feel like exercising, or the pros and cons of driving to the gym. Instead, the decision to work out is instigated by the cue, and is carried out automatically.
Habits performed on cue are called instigation habits, and they provide us with the most stress-free and consistent way of getting regular exercise. To cultivate an instigation habit, choose a cue - something that recurs - and whenever the cue is triggered turn on the yoga video, hop on your bike, or head off to the gym.
Five More Regular-Exercise Tips
Five more exercise motivation tips come from the book No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, written by Dr. Michelle Segar.
Use the Moment. Think about what you can do right now. Maybe you have time for a ten-minute walk, three yoga stretches, a dozen sit-ups, or can spare a couple minutes to breathe slowly and deeply.
All Movement Counts. Recognize that all movement counts as exercise and give yourself credit for doing it. Working in the garden, vacuuming, cleaning out the garage, taking a walk after dinner—it all adds up to better health.
Appreciate Immediate Rewards. Instead of chasing exercise goals, think about how good it feels to have exercised. Although we may start a workout reluctantly, people generally feel refreshed and revitalized afterward. It creates more energy and stamina to take care of business, and to care for others. Exercise afterglow is a powerful motivator.
A Little At A Time. Making lifestyle changes can be overwhelming if we take on too much too soon. People tend to be successful when taking small steps to incorporate one new habit at a time.
The Power of Enjoyment. Another strong predictor of exercise consistency is enjoyment. Choose activities that are pleasant or fun for you—they provide immediate gratification and refresh the spirit.