Forming an Exercise Habit

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Forming an Exercise Habit

Do you know people who do some type of workout every day, whether it’s walking, jogging, biking, weightlifting, or something different? Did you ever wonder where they get the sheer willpower to force themselves to do it day in and day out? I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s not just willpower — it’s habit. Willpower really comes into play when you’re trying to form a habit. Especially if you haven’t been active for a while, the hardest thing to do may be overcoming inertia — getting off the couch and moving. Once you’ve chosen an activity, such as walking, it’s well worth doing everything you can to reinforce that habit. Here are some tips for habit forming.

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How to form a habit

Try to do it every day, or at least several times a week.

If you let your exercise habit lapse, you’ll be back where you started, and you may have a hard time picking it up again. (Having once experienced a two-year exercise “slump” I had a very hard time pulling myself out of, I’m very wary of getting out of the habit again.)

Schedule a time of day when you’ll exercise regularly.

Many hardworking folks do their walking, jogging, or biking right before or right after work. (If you wind up exercising outdoors at night, be sure to wear visible clothing like a reflective coat or vest or even a blinking light!)

Have fun.

Somewhere along the way, many people lose sight of a simple fact: We tend to keep doing things that are rewarding to us — that we enjoy. While some of us actually look forward to exercise as a way to destress, it never hurts to find extra rewards. If you love the outdoors, consider exercising in the woods, in a park, or on the beach. If you need a social “fix,” exercise with close friends or join a virtual or outdoor group exercise class such as Zumba, kickboxing, aerobics, spinning, or yoga. Exercising with friends or joining an exercise class can keep you on a regular exercise schedule. If you almost never get a chance to listen to your new wave or heavy-metal music, you can use earbuds and listen while you’re working out.

Mix it up.

Vary your activities as much as possible, such as biking one day, doing a group aerobics class the next, hiking the next, and so on. If you walk, jog, run, or bike, find different routes, so that you’ll constantly have a change of scenery. When I walk or ride my bike, I often intentionally get myself a little bit lost so that I discover places I’ve never been (but I wouldn’t recommend it for hiking!).

Keeping your workouts fresh often requires a little bit of creative thinking, but it’s well worth it. Keep on keeping on!

Want to learn more about exercising with diabetes? Read “Add Movement to Your Life,” “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals” and “Seven Ways to Have Fun Exercising.”

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor

Robert S. Dinsmoor on social media

A contributing editor at Diabetes Self-Management, Dinsmoor is an award-winning medical journalist who has written hundreds of articles on health and medicine, including dozens related to diabetes.

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