How to form an exercise habit
Consistency is the key to better fitness outcome, particularly for strength training. According to this research published on Sports Medicine in 2020, the most important factor for upper body and lower body muscle strength is training frequency, followed by training volume and sets per exercise. According to Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, it takes around 8 to 12 weeks and train at least twice a week to get initial results.
Well, it is a lot easier said than done. Inclement weather, insomnia, or general laziness can get us off the rail.
Research from University College London found that it takes at least 66 days for people to form a habit. However, there is a huge variation - anywhere from 18 to 254 days. That means, don't beat yourself up if your workout habit doesn't automatically kick in after 2 months.
Despite the uncertainty in habit-forming duration, there are tips that can help you stick to your exercise routine:
1. Choose a fixed place and a time: For example, you can always go out for a run in the neighborhood at 7 am. Or do a short Youtube video exercise in your bedroom every Tuesday and Thursday after dinner. It is a lot easier to stick to your fitness routine when you have a sacred place and time.
2. Be realistic and start small: Starting from running 10 miles and being tired for the rest of the week won't be very effective. Be easy on yourself! Exercise can be excruciating if you're too hard on yourself too fast.
3. Use habit anchor: A habit anchor is an action or event that triggers your habit. For example, "After I shower, I always brush my teeth." It is an extremely powerful technique to make a habit stick. A good anchor should be something you already do regularly. Treat yourself and celebrate: Have a milkshake after each session or indulge yourself with a hot steamy bath. Exercise should be something cheerful and rewarding.
4. Share your progress and announce your plan: Peer pressure is real. Find a group of friends that share similar goals and share your progress with them.