We all know that physical activity is beneficial for both physical and mental health. Exercise benefits the brain and mood, reduces the risk of various chronic diseases, helps manage weight and blood sugar, strengthens bones and muscles and can improve sleep. If your biggest challenge with exercise is getting started, you are not alone. Even those with the best intentions to be active struggle to stay motivated and consistent. Developing solid exercise habits is the best way to reap the benefits of physical activity.
Here are our top five tips for creating and sustaining healthy exercise habits that work for your lifestyle:
Start with baby steps
Overcommitting to an unrealistic exercise schedule can lead to an “all or nothing” approach and procrastination. Instead, start small by creating a simple and attainable exercise plan. Focus on consistency by exercising at the same time each day, even for just five or ten minutes, and increase the duration over time. Optimize easy ways to make exercise accessible and convenient.
Do exercise you enjoy
Enjoyment is key to maintaining an exercise routine. While indoor workouts at the gym or at home might be preferable for some, outdoor exercise like walking, hiking and biking might be more desirable for others. While group workouts can boost motivation and accountability, solo exercise can offer much needed alone time.
Exercising with a partner can help build motivation and accountability. Not only will an exercise or walking buddy improve consistency with a workout routine, but they can encourage you to work harder and achieve better results. Buddies improve both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
Maximize NEAT activity
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is energy spent outside of sleep and sports or regular exercise. This may include walking to the store, house work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and gardening, for example. While NEAT activity is not a replacement for other exercise, it can help with blood sugar control and boost metabolism.
While carving out time is essential to implementing an exercise routine, mental barriers can pose the greatest challenge to achieving fitness goals. Negative self-talk and “I’ll start next week” excuses are common hurdles. Set yourself up for success by using helpful tools like scheduling exercise in your calendar, setting alarms, adding upbeat music to your workout playlist and trying out fitness smartphone apps to reinforce your best exercise intentions.