The not-so secret way to make exercise a habit

09.22.16 |

Do the exercise you enjoy to form habits

Sometimes medical research can be confusing and at times seem contradictory for the average reader, and by average I mean anyone that hasn’t gone through medical school and hasn’t spent much of their life reading medical journals.

Every once in a while, though, a study will come out where everyone—from physicians to patients—can nod their heads and say, “Of course! That makes perfect sense!”

A new study out of Iowa State University found that intrinsic rewards are one of the keys to making exercise a habit. In other words, you are most likely to continue doing the exercise that you enjoy doing.

That might sound obvious now, but the noise in the health & wellness industry can drown out this simple but powerful idea.

Getting overwhelmed with options

With whole reality shows dedicated to building the next exercise fad and with research talking about the potential benefits of extreme workouts like high intensity interval training (HIIT), feeling lost is perfectly normal. Should you powerlift? How about marathons? Yoga looks healthy, so how about that?

You have so many options and so many people marketing to you that it’s no surprise that you often feel overwhelmed by the very idea of walking into a gym to do anything at all.

Find an exercise routine you enjoy

Despite all of the arguments over which exercise program is best for you, the exercise that is best for you ends up being the exercise that you actually do.
From a Habits of Health perspective, that also means the exercise that you continue doing.

If you’re not naturally inclined to go running or to lift weights, you’re far from alone. Instead of thinking about what exercise routine will give you the fastest and most impressive results, try instead to find an exercise routine that you enjoy doing.

Here are some tips

  • Find a buddy. Even the most competitive weight lifters often train with a partner. Having a friend nearby is great for encouragement and helps to keep you accountable. It also tends to be more fun.
  • Pick an active hobby. Pick-up basketball, a walking game of golf, or hiking are all great ways to mix exercise with pleasure. If you forget you’re exercising because you’re so focused on the game or on the experience, chances are you’ll burn more calories and come back the next day for more.
  • Longevity matters. A routine that involves things like HIIT on paper might deliver the best results, but take into account your age and your current level of athleticism. The ideal exercise routine for you should challenge you but not put you at serious risk for injury. If you’re hurt, you can’t work out!
  • Keep it fresh. Part of keeping anything fun is introducing variety to stave off boredom. Don’t be afraid to try something new or introduce new variables to keep your Habits of Healthy Motion sharp and strong.
  • Low intensity exercise matters too. Not all of your workouts need to be exhausting to make a difference in your health. Walking regularly might not seem like a killer workout, but it does a lot for your wellbeing, and so little things like standing more often.

I hope that you can find an exercise activity that gives you an emotional reward. I promise that there’s one out there for you. Go find it!