Start Right to Sustain Your Exercise Habit

The new year brings with it many resolutions to do better and one of the most common is to “exercise more”. 

Despite the thousands of people that set this intention, and then even go so far as to show up at the gym for the month of January, the success rate is remarkably low. The majority of people soon ditch the gym and go back to their old ways.

We recently recommended James Clear’s book Atomic Habits as a great tool for creating and sustaining lifestyle change. Well worth a read. And a new month is right around the corner–it’s a perfect time to reboot a fading habit, or start a new one!

Here are some or our favourite techniques for kickstarting change that lasts.

1. Start with Redefining Exercise

Let’s be real: exercise sounds kinda awful. It seems hard. Sweaty. Difficult. It sounds like expensive gear and weird clothes and machines that you don’t understand.

What if you think of it differently? What if your goal isn’t exercise, but simply to move more? Does that open your mind to different possibilities? To things that you like or don’t feel intimidated by?

2.  Start With Why

People don’t actually want to exercise more–at least at first. They want the effects of having exercised more. They want:

  • A slimmer body 
  • More energy 
  • Better sleep 
  • Better concentration 
  • More calm and less stress
  • Increased health

What are your reasons for wanting to exercise more? When you’re beginning to make change, this list can often be far more compelling than the exercise itself. Put this reason somewhere you can see it to remind yourself of the why.  

3. Start Small and Grow

How often have you said to yourself, I’m going to the gym for an hour a day, or, I’m going to walk 10,000 steps.

Invariably, life happens and your well-meaning but overly-ambitious goal is not met. You feel like a failure and your fears are confirmed: I’m just not the person who can get exercise into my life.  

What if you start small? What if you start ridiculously small?

What if you walked 100 extra steps? What if you did one push-up? What if you ate one vegetable?

It may not seem like much, but the consistency matters more than the quantity.

After all, at the end of the month, would you rather be the person who walked a little every day, or the person who set big goals but didn’t walk at all?

4. Start with Commitment

It you have to meet a friend at the gym, or you have made a plan with someone to go for a walk, there’s a much greater likelihood of things happening. Plus, you get to meet another basic need for health–connecting with others!

Commitment really works. What form works best for you?

  • Social commitment: Tell a friend you’ll meet them.
  • Scheduling commitment: Put your new habit in your calendar before anything else.
  • Financial commitment: Pay in advance for a class, membership or trainer.