A lot of fitness professionals will tell you that if you only work out occasionally, it’s not a “real” workout because it’s not part of a consistent program. My fellow personal trainer pals and I laugh bitterly about this exclusionary “dudebro” point of view — every single workout benefits your body in very real ways, including boosting your mood and improving mental focus. That said, my interest as a trainer is helping people make exercise — whatever that means for them — part of their regular routines. So how do you make exercise a habit?
It’s good to start with a solid understanding of habits in general. Forming any kind of routine can be super hard — and it can take longer than you'd think. An often overlooked 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that the time it takes to form sustainable habits was anywhere between 18 and 254 days. The average time it took the 96 participants to form consistent habits was 66 days, or just over two months. This might still seem like an insurmountable amount of time between starting to run and actually doing it automatically. But if you emphasize joy in your process, you might find it easier to get there. Sure enough, the study found that personal factors (like how your way of creating a habit suits your personality) impact how long it takes for the habit to form. And don’t worry — the study found that missing your new goal once in a while won’t necessarily derail your goals.
It might still be intimidating to try tomake exercise a habit, especially if you’ve tried before and it hasn’t stuck around. The key is to define exercise for yourself, and to create your workout habit around activities you enjoy. These five habit-forming hacks can help get you there.