Covers how to stick with an exercise or activity program once you have started. Offers tips on how to keep goals fresh and interest high. Describes what you need to do to stay active and motivated. Provides questions to help guide decision process.
Fitness: Making It a Habit
It's one thing to start an exercise or activity program. It's quite
another to turn it into a habit so that you're staying active week in and week
out. If you're having problems staying with your plan, don't worry. You're not
You'll be glad to hear there are plenty of tips and tricks
you can use to get yourself back on track and stay there.
haven't started a plan yet to get more active, it may be helpful to
Many of the benefits of being active, like having more
energy and just feeling better, happen soon after you become more active. But
some of the most important health benefits come with being active over
Your reason for wanting to stay active is very
important. It won't work if you're doing it because someone else—your spouse,
your children, your doctor—wants you to. You have to
If you started a program to get more active but don't
feel like you're making any progress, it may be time to update your
If you started a program to get more active but are having
trouble keeping it going, it may help to figure out what's getting in your way.
Then you can figure out how to work around those barriers.
it, even if you slip up along the way. It can take months of
repetition to form a habit, so every day is a step in the right
How do you stay active?
Update your goals
When you first started increasing your activity, you
probably had one or more big goals in mind, like taking a summer hike with your
family, walking 30 minutes every day, or lowering your blood pressure. These
are long-term goals.
Are those goals the same today, or do you
need to change them?
Are you having trouble meeting those long-term goals? You may need to come up with new short-term goals
to help you get there. Short-term goals are things you want to do tomorrow and
the day after.
Did you try to take on too much too fast? That's a reason why some people have trouble making activity a
habit. Remember to make your short-term goals small steps. For example, if you want to build up to walking 30 minutes every
day, start by walking just 10 minutes—or even 5 minutes—a day, a few days a
week. After a week, add 1 or 2 minutes every day, or add another day to your
Did you meet your long-term goal and then stop? Good for you for meeting your goal! But now you need a new
long-term goal to help you stay active. Even people who have been active for
years set new goals to help themselves stay motivated.
Get past those slip-ups
Everyone has slip-ups. But there's a difference between slipping up and
giving up. Not exercising for a month after you've been exercising for 6 months
is a slip-up.
When you slip up,
don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Think of it as a learning experience.
Figure out what happened. Why did you stop? Think of ways to get yourself going
again. Learn from your slip-ups so that you can keep on toward your goal of
Here are some common reasons for slip-ups, and
some ideas for dealing with them:
It seems like I never have time.
If you don't have time for your usual
half-hour walk, have a back-up plan to take two 15-minute walks or three
10-minute walks during the day.
When you don't have time to go to
the gym, have a back-up plan to exercise at home or at work
Think of ways to manage your time better. Ask your family
for help with fitting in some time for exercise.
that you are the type of person who makes time for your
own health, including physical activity.
Look at other people who
are active and are about as busy as you. Talk with them about how they fit in
Use a step counter, or pedometer, to remind you
to be more active as you go about your daily routine.
It's often too hot, too cold, too windy, or too wet for outdoor activities.
Try a variety of indoor and outdoor
activities so that you're ready when the weather turns bad.
back-up plan to exercise indoors with home equipment or DVDs. Or walk inside a
shopping mall or at a gym.
Take a class like aerobics or yoga at a
gym or community center. They're usually held indoors.
Going to the gym costs too much.
Walking is an activity everyone can do
without spending money.
Exercise at home with inexpensive items
such as a jump rope, elastic tubing, or a yoga mat. You can use items you
already have, such as milk jugs filled with water as weights for arm
Take an exercise class at a community center. These
classes usually don't cost much.
I'm too tired most of the time.
Try to get more rest.
don't have the energy for a half-hour walk, spread 3 shorter 10-minute walks
throughout your day. You'll soon regain the energy to walk
stress is making you tired. Think of ways to take
stress out of your life. And remember that regular physical activity is one of
the best ways to relieve stress. For more information, see
It's too boring.
Make your exercise routine more interesting
by adding some entertainment. Watch a movie while you exercise at home. Or
listen to a podcast while you go for a walk or a run.
a partner. Play outdoor games with your family. Walk the dog.
something new—a dance class, exercise class, or gardening.
It hurts to exercise because of an injury or arthritis.
If you're having pain when you exercise,
try a different activity, such as bicycling or water activities.
Use chair exercise DVDs that help you stay active while sitting
It may hurt less if you spread your activity throughout your
Tell your doctor that pain or discomfort is keeping you from
Talk to a fitness expert who is trained to help you
change your exercise so you can avoid pain.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.