By Rachel Welch
Some people love to exercise, and others may not. The key to results with exercise is consistency, and to gain consistently healthy habits, there are a few things that we can do in our daily lives. Here are 10 tips to make exercise a habit!
To develop a habit, it’s important to understand the 4 stages of habit-making.
Stage 1: The Cue
The cue is what triggers our brain to respond or act. In prehistoric times, humans paid close attention to cues related to food, water, safety, and physical needs. For example, a cue of edible berries on a bush would lead to picking them, eating them, and feeling fed.
Stage 2: The Craving
The craving is the reaction to the cue. In the case of our prehistoric ancestors, the edible berry sighting would then lead to the craving of the reward—the feeling of being fed.
Stage 3: The Response
The response is the action that is taken as a result of the cue and craving. In the case of the berries, our ancestors likely would take the action of picking the berries. Finally, we come to the fourth pillar of habit-making: the reward.
Stage Four: The Reward
Arguably the most fun part of habits is the moment of finally getting what our brains noticed, craved, and acted on to obtain. Feeling satiated after eating the berries is rewarding. Rewards trigger a happy hormone response, giving us a flood of good feelings that we end up wanting again. Thus, we have a habit (1).
This is important to know as we dive into each of our 10 tips to making exercise a habit.
1) Make it Fun
If exercise is to become a part of your routine, it needs to be something you can actually enjoy and look forward to. It needs to be something you can crave, per our habit stages above.
If you want to form a habit, become a scientist of your own mind. Try yoga with a friend, or a long walk to your favorite coffee shop. With these examples, you can build in fun where it might not be otherwise. The friend at yoga provides an ultimate reward (craving) of social time. The coffee shop provides the reward of coffee. Building something fun into an exercise routine helps your brain associate the exercise with the desired reward.
2) Find Your "Why"
Why do you want to make exercise a habit? For mental health, weight loss, or maybe endurance to run the Thanksgiving family 5k? Identify your motivation, and remember it. Vision boards come in handy with providing a visual cue every day as to why you are working towards this habit.
3) Set a SMART Goal
- Specific (simple, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic, results-based).
- Time bound (time-based, time-sensitive).
When you set your SMART goal, make sure that it fits this criteria (2).
4) Be Accountable
Accountability is necessary if a habit is going to stick. Hold yourself accountable by using your SMART goal timeline and tracking your progress. This can be done through an app, through the calendar on your phone, or through an accountability partner. You can pick someone that will help hold you accountable and provide an additional layer of motivation.
5) Plan Ahead
If you want to exercise in the morning, plan ahead and lay out your outfit the night before. Or make it super easy and sleep in your workout clothes. Keep your water by the bed, and your sneakers nearby. Then all you have to do is wake up, put your shoes on, grab your water, and go!
Pick a gym, class, or trail that you pass on your way to and from work. Pack your gym bag the night before you leave for work, and then think of the stop as a required part of your day. Having an easily accessible and convenient location will make it much easier to stay consistent.
7) Keep a Promise
Make a promise to yourself! Promise that you will adhere to your SMART goal. Just as we would keep a promise to someone we love, we deserve to keep our promises to ourselves!
Sometimes we might need a pre-workout boost of energy to fuel our exercise. A natural way to boost your energy is by taking vitamin B supplements. (Always check with your doctor to make sure this is a good option for you).
Vitamin B complex is an excellent natural source of energy. If you want a natural source of energy that isn't food or a manufactured "pre-workout powder," consider vitamin B (3).
Supplementing with Electrolyte and Magnesium thirty minutes before exercise also increases endurance, hydration, and muscle performance. Grab Health By Principle’s Electrolyte and Magnesium bundle to boost your next workout.
9) Be Kind
Remember that change takes time. Give yourself some grace and forgiveness as you adjust to your body's new level of activity and routine. Remember not to be hard on your body by pushing too hard, too soon. For instance, when beginning a new running routine, it is recommended to only run 1-3 miles at most. Pushing our bodies too drastically can hinder the progress, or cause injury (4).
10) Mental Care
While exercise has multiple mental benefits, it is important to take care of the psychological as well as the physical. If you miss a day, forgive yourself. If you give into the craving which leads to a bad habit, start fresh and try again! Be kind to yourself mentally, as well as physically.
To make exercise a habit, remember...
It is never too late to start, or restart, an exercise habit. Even if you begin for what feels like the millionth time, be proud of yourself! It is an amazing thing to make and reach your goals, even if that goal is to simply start again. Become the scientist of your own brain, develop healthy habits, keep trying, and love yourself along the way. You can do it!
1. Clear, J. (2018, November 13). James Clear. Retrieved from James Clear website: https://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change
2. MindTools. (2009). SMART Goals – How to Make Your Goals Achievable. Retrieved from Mindtools.com website: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm
3. (2017, September 21). Your Expert Guide To Vitamin B Complex. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from Bodybuilding.com website: https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/your-expert-guide-to-vitamin-b-complex.html
4. Fitzgerald, J. (2014, January 2). How Far Should You Run? Retrieved from ACTIVE.com website: https://www.active.com/running/articles/how-far-should-you-run#:~:text=Beginning%20runners%20should%20start%20with
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