Turning physical activity into a habit
Most people don't think about being active or inactive
as a habit. But it is. And habits are affected by many things, including our work
schedule, our home life, and our social life. When something becomes a habit,
we don't think about it much—we just do it, like brushing our
The key to staying active is to make fitness a habit—something that you just do.
Experts say it takes about 3 months of repetition to form
a habit. For some people, even 3 months isn't enough. So start small, and keep
doing an activity until you no longer think about it as something "extra" that you have
When you slip up, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Figure out
what happened and how to keep it from happening again. Get right back into your
physical activity routine, and don't look back.
- Fitness: Making It a Habit
Maintaining the lifestyle
Many of the
good things about being active, such as having
more energy and being in a better mood, happen
soon after you become more active. But some of the most important health
benefits have to do with being active over many years. If you stop being
active, you lose the fitness you achieved. Being consistent makes the most
sense for your health.
To help make physical activity a long-term
- Set goals. Develop and follow a specific
- Make it a habit. Turn physical activity into a
normal, pleasant, and routine part of your life.
- Get the support of friends and family.
- Expand your fitness activities through coaching,
competition, and cross-training.
- Add variety to your fitness program. Change the place,
activity, and time.
- Don't let
reasons such as lack of time or bad weather slow you
- Schedule your activity for times that
you're likely to keep doing it. If you don't have time for
one 30-minute walk, break it up into three 10-minute walks.
- Fitness: Staying Active When You Have Young Children
- Stress Management: Managing Your Time
- Quick Tips: Having Enough Energy to Stay Active
- Quick Tips: Staying Active in Cold Weather
- Quick Tips: Staying Active in Hot Weather
Finding what works for you
When you have decided that you want to
get fit, you will want to plan a
physical activity routine. Although most people think of
classes and specific activities (such as jogging or tennis) as the way to
fitness, there are many ways you can work physical activity into your
- Fitness: Adding More Activity to Your Life
- Fitness: Choosing Activities That Are Right for You
One Woman's Story:
realized that I had put myself on the back burner for too long and it was time
for me to make time for myself, even if it was just a few minutes a day. I wrote myself a note and taped it to my bathroom mirror. It said, 'I
will take a 10-minute walk during my morning coffee break every day this week.' " —Shellie
Read more about Shellie and how she became more active.
Fitness classes or groups
provide a consistent approach to an activity. Local gyms, schools, and churches
may sponsor a regular fitness group. Teams also provide a consistent approach
to fitness but are more competitive. Many communities have physical activity
programs to help adults and children get fit. They often are found within
social agencies and schools.
Structured fitness has the advantage
- Being held at the same time and place, which may
be easier for some people to schedule.
- Having a social atmosphere.
- Providing support and "healthy" peer
pressure to show up and participate.
- Sometimes being led by a certified fitness professional.
Many people find an activity
they enjoy, and then they create their own fitness
program. Self-directed fitness gives you:
- Flexibility as to the time and place.
- The ability to try different types of exercises.
For this to be effective, you must set up a regular
schedule and stay with it.
Fitness within your day
You can use "everyday"
activities for fitness, as long as you do them regularly. This includes:
Preparing for slip-ups
normal to try to change a habit, go along fine for a while, and then have a
setback. Lots of people try and try again before they reach their goals.
What are the things that might cause a
setback for you? If you have tried to make changes in your activity level
before, think about what helped you and what got in your way.
By thinking about these
barriers now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with
them if they happen.
Here's one person's list of barriers to taking a brisk
30-minute walk every day, along with some possible solutions:
"I might be too busy."
- My backup plan will be to break my usual 30-minute
walk into two 15-minute walks or three 10-minute walks.
- I will
promise to meet my friend or neighbor every day for a walk.
"I might get bored."
- I'll listen to music or podcasts while I
- I'll get my neighbor to walk with me.
"It might rain."
- I'll buy a good rain jacket.
- My backup
plan will be to use an exercise DVD or a treadmill in front of my TV when the
personal action plan (What is a PDF document?) to write down your barriers and backup plans.