Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. It’s good for your heart and brain. It lowers your risk of disease. It also makes it easier to do everyday activities. For exercise to work, though, it needs to become routine. Here are strategies to make exercise a habit you can keep:
1. Find your why.
To help a habit stick, attach some meaning to it. Do you want to have more energy or sleep better? Are you looking to improve your strength and balance to avoid falls? Take a few minutes to think about why you want to exercise more. Write it down and stick it somewhere you’ll see often. Try the bathroom mirror or your work computer.
2. Set realistic goals.
What would a successful routine look like for you? To set goals you can reach, make SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Here’s an example:
- I’m going to take four 10-minute walks this week (specific and measurable). I have comfortable shoes and know a safe place to walk (achievable). I know I can walk for five minutes, so going an extra five is realistic. I’ll try that this week and see how it goes (time-bound).
3. Find activities you enjoy.
Moving your body should be fun. You’re more likely to continue with activities you enjoy. Think about all the options and choose ones to try that are accessible and fun for you. From dancing and pickleball to gardening and water aerobics, there are so many ways to be active.
4. Create a schedule.
Once you’ve decided what you’d like to do, schedule it in. Exercise won’t happen if you don’t make it a priority. At least weekly, look at your calendar and find time for activity. If you need to leave home, make sure you block out time to get to where you’re going. Planning ahead will help take the guess work out of it.
5. Find an exercise buddy.
Working out with a friend is a great way to make it more fun to get moving. Plus, it helps you be accountable. It’s a lot harder to bail on plans if someone is counting on you to show up.
6. Share your journey with others.
Telling people about your goals can help you feel accountable. Meeting with a coach is a good place to start. You could also tell friends and family when you see them, or over social media. Keeping folks updated by any method can help you stick to your new routine.
7. Mix up your routine.
Doing the same thing gets old. To keep things interesting, vary what you do. That could mean trying new activities. Or changing up where you walk or bike. Doing new kinds of exercise will challenge your body in new ways. And mixing up your routine will keep things fresh.
8. Reward yourself.
You could say that the benefits of exercise are rewarding enough. Building energy, strength and endurance are great, after all. But what about pairing SMART goals with additional rewards? The promise of a pedicure, shopping trip or movie night might be just the motivation you need.
Making new routines can take time. But by trying these tips, you can make exercise a habit you can keep.