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5-Step Plan for Making Exercise a Habit

5-Step Plan for Making Exercise a Habit

Exercise has immense benefits, from cardiovascular fitness to lowering stress, but how do you to find the time, motivation, and consistency to get these benefits? If you’re just starting out, ditch the gym, fancy yoga classes, and scheduled group runs. Instead, focus on making exercise a habit first, and once you lock down a consistent exercise habit, consider adding them into your routine. The best part is that creating this habit is much easier than it seems.

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    5 Steps for Making Exercise a Habit

    1. Plan for Success

    In order to really commit to a new exercise plan, make a long term goal and set a date for achievement. Your goal could be related to time, distance, or new skill. Examples include holding a one minute plank, running a 5k, or a yoga headstand. Next, break down that big goal into weekly goals. Now, break the weekly goals into daily micro goals. Which brings us to the next step.

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      2. Make it daily

      Yes, even on the weekends – and here’s why: I know I’m not alone in making three-days per week running plans, while only running once or twice. Working late unexpectedly, rainy weather, or hanging out with friends easily derails these three day plans, especially as a beginner. Alternatively, commit to 10 minutes of exercise every. single. day. You can always find ten minutes in a day, and anyone who has done 1 minute of burpees can attest that it doesn’t take much time to spike your heart rate. If you go two weeks with no zero days, consider upping your duration by five minutes every week you hit all seven days, until you hit your desired length.

      3. Timing is Everything

      You have tons of habits and routines throughout your day. How you get ready for work, how you prepare to go out, what you do on Saturday mornings. The best way to ensure your new exercise habit sticks is by incorporating it into your existing routine. Decide on what activity will immediately precede your chosen exercise. For me, it is boiling the water for tea each morning. After I start the water, I do my ten minutes of yoga and stretching, I don’t even think about when to fit it in anymore.

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        4. Create a cue

        A cue will help push you over the edge when faced with the decision to exercise. It is often related to the timing, discussed above. When I first started doing yoga each morning, I unrolled my yoga mat in the kitchen (the only place I have room to practice) every night so that I could not forget about my goal in the morning. Other people find laying out their exercise clothes by the bed helps them roll out of bed and into workout clothes without thinking each morning. Find a good cue that works for you.

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          5. Celebrate

          Celebrating your successes when reaching milestones is key to forming a habit. A simple, non-food reward is printing out a blank calendar and marking an X each day you when you finish your exercise. After a few days, you get the added incentive to keep the streak going!

          Now that you have a good strategy for making exercise a habit, it’s time to get moving!

          Featured photo credit: Positive Mornings via positivemornings.com

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          Last Updated on January 5, 2021

          15 Fitness Goals That Will Help You Live a Healthier Life This Year

          15 Fitness Goals That Will Help You Live a Healthier Life This Year

          Starting a journey with fitness goals is never easy, and you must remember this is not a crash diet; it is a lifestyle. Don’t panic and think you have to do it all at once, as this will most likely overwhelm you. You may also find yourself giving up because crash diets are not sustainable.

          The best approach is to make simple changes to your daily habits, and over time, you will notice all your bad habits have turned into good ones.

          Accordingly to a study by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.[1] And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances.

          Here are 15 fitness goals to help you on your journey:

          1. Drink More Water

          W.H. Auden said it best when he said,

          “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”

          With any diet, the most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated. Drinking water will support your body with digestion, transporting nutrients to your bones and muscles, and even improving cognitive function.

          Ideally, you want to drink about half your body weight in ounces per day, i.e. if you weight 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water a day.

          2. Add Some Lemon and Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Water

          It is recommended we sleep for about 8 hours a day, but this means we spend about 8 hours per day dehydrated. Therefore, hydrating your body first thing in the morning is absolutely necessary.

          The best way to achieve hydration is by starting your day with a glass or even two of water. For that extra boost, add lemon juice and ½ teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. The lemon and apple cider vinegar will help your body with detoxifying, cleansing, and digestion.

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          3. Stop Drinking Your Calories

          Yes, keeping hydrated is important, but try to avoid high-calorie drinks, such as soft drinks, specialty coffee, and juices as they are full of fast-acting sugar.

          Really push yourself to stop drinking such drinks, and before you know it, you will notice the benefits.

          4. Start Stretching More Often

          The benefits are vast and the repercussions of failing to stretch can be dramatic.

          Do yourself a favor and always stretch before and after a workout. This will promote a healthy cool down, improve flexibility, and reduce next day aches. Failure to stretch can lead to injures and muscle damage.

          Here’re some simple stretching exercises to get you started: 15 Static Stretching Exercises to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

          5. Add in Some High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

          You may have heard about HIIT training because it is the big thing right now, and believe me when I say that it works and should absolutely be included in your fitness goals.

          The benefits include lower body fat, increased stamina, leaner muscles, and fantastic hormonal benefits.

          HIIT is where you perform an intense exercise for a very short time frame (about 30 seconds), followed by a slower exercise for about 90 seconds.

          Performing a HIIT routine for 1-3 times a week will lead to great results.

          6. Focus on Your Breathing When You Work Out

          For the most part, breathing is second nature, but when exercising, you may find yourself holding your breath, and this can have negative consequences.

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          It is important to consciously take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, as this will fill your lungs with oxygen and give you the necessary energy to continue your workout.

          7. Build More Lean Muscle

          We all want to have lean muscles. Not only does it look good, but it also has great health benefits, including:

          • Improved posture
          • Reduced body fat
          • Improved metabolism
          • Strong bones
          • Protects and improves joint health
          • Improved stamina

          You can build lean muscle by lifting weights or through other specific exercises. Learn more about building muscle in this guide: How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

          8. Decrease Body Fat

          This may seem like an obvious one, but it is one of the most important steps to a healthier you. Reducing your body fat has a lot of benefits such as:

          • Improved joints and tendons
          • Lowered risk of diabetes
          • Reduced risk of heart disease
          • Reduced inflammation
          • Better performance and endurance
          • Improved appearance and confidence
          • Better hormonal profiles in your body

          Remember, it is not a race to see how quickly you can decrease your body fat. Healthy weight loss is around 1-2 pounds a week for your fitness goals.[2]

          Crash dieting or pushing yourself too much in the gym can lead to you achieving an unrealistic target, and you may find yourself gaining all the weight you have lost.

          Think of it as a lifestyle, and take it slow and steady.

          9. Eat More Greens

          What you eat is the most important factor in a healthier living plan. It is important to ensure you are getting as many nutrients and vitamins from the food you are eating as possible.

          Focus on dark, leafy greens, as they will provide you with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants—all of which you body needs!

          Don’t forget to avoid processed and manufactured food. They are usually high in fat and have minimal vitamins.

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          10. Start Eliminating Sugar

          Another top goal you can start immediately is reducing the amount of sugar you consume. It also won’t cost you anything, and will save you money and improve your health in the long run.

          There’s no surprise we eat too much sugar, and this should be one of your top fitness goals moving forward. Cutting out liquid calories is a great way to start. If you’re looking for something sweet, turn to fruits or even dark chocolate.

          Be careful to eliminate sugar from your diet slowly. Cutting it out all at once can cause symptoms of sugar withdrawal, which can drive you back to sugary snacks[3].

          Common symptoms of sugar withdrawal

            11. Allow Yourself to Rest and Recover

            The workout is where you go to break down muscle tissue, and it builds back through proper nutrition, rest, and recovery[4]. It might be tempting to go to the gym for two hours every day as hard as you can to achieve your goals, but that’s not the most effective approach.

            If you don’t allow for proper rest and recovery, it can set you back a few steps. Your body is more prone to injury and even illness as you can weaken your immune system from all the progressive intensity the body is facing.

            12. Get More Sleep

            When you are deprived of sleep, you make it next to impossible to achieve your health and fitness goals. Lack of sleep can increase stress hormones in your body, and over time these can lead to inflammation and chronic diseases.[5]

            Make sleep a priority to let your body heal and rejuvenate. A good approach is 7 to 8 hours. Also, allow yourself some wind-down time and a pre-bed routine to help get more consistent sleep every night.

            13. Focus on the Habit, Not the Result

            It’s easy to get caught up in trying to achieve a certain look or shed time off of your mile, but the more important focus is on the habit that will bring you closer to those fitness goals.

            Don’t look at the scale, the tape measurer, or the body fat percentage. Focus on the habits that will lead to those achievements.

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            Don’t compare yourself to where others are; you’re right where you need to be.

            14. Take Your Fitness Outside

            This may be hard depending on the weather you experience, but the more you can be outside exposed to fresh air and sunlight, the better.

            Being stuck in the gym doing cardio while staring at a wall won’t do much for your mental stimulation.

            Try to challenge your body more by getting outside. Hiking is great and also just running and walking. Give yourself more access to nature and a constantly changing environment. It also beats breathing in that recycled gym air.

            15. Do at Least One Pull Up

            This is a great last goal to focus on because it’s a great test of strength and to see how you are progressing with your fitness.

            If you haven’t been able to do one, you know what a challenge it can be. Having the goal of doing at least one pull up will not only show you how far you’ve progressed, but it is a great way to become dedicated and motivated.

            The Bottom Line

            These fitness goals will become more attainable through the year if you’re consistent with your fitness. Set yourself a concrete timeline for when you want to accomplish some or all of these in order to create realistic goals in the short term. In fact, start making one of these goals happen this month!

            More on Setting Fitness Goals

            Featured photo credit: Ivan Torres via unsplash.com

            Reference

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