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
It can be
frustrating to start a new habit of activity or exercise and then have to stop
because something gets in the way—illness, travel, too many other things to do,
or just having a bad day. Your goal is to get back in the habit and find a way
to make it a routine part of your life.
If that sounds
impossible, think about a simple habit like brushing your teeth. When you were
small, maybe you had trouble remembering to brush your teeth every day. Now you
probably brush your teeth without thinking much about it. And even if you miss
a day, you always go back to brushing your teeth the day after. It can be that
way with activity or exercise when you make it a habit.
that you can't create a habit overnight. Keep at 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 direction.
Here are three important
To stay physically active, you need to turn your
activity into a habit.
A habit is something you do almost without
thinking. When a task like brushing your teeth or taking a walk becomes a
regular habit, it's much easier to keep doing it over the long term. But it
takes patience and practice.
Continue to Why?
Your reasons for
wanting to stay active are really important. Knowing your reasons may help you
keep going. What makes you want to stay active?
It's not always easy to make activity a regular part of
your life. But taking the time now to really think about what motivates or
inspires you will help you stay with it.
It's harder to stay active when you're not clear about
why you want to do it.
Taking the time to really think about what
motivates you to stay active will help you stay with it.
Continue to How?
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?
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. It doesn't mean you're a failure.
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:
Feeling guilty is the right response when you let your
physical activity habits slip.
When you slip up and get off your plan to stay
active, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Think of it as a learning
experience. Figure out what happened and why you've stopped being active. And
then come up with ways to get yourself going again.
There's something wrong if you've tried to be
physically active for 4 weeks and you still don't feel like it's become a
Four weeks is not enough time to form a habit.
Experts say that it takes months of repetition to form a
Continue to Where?
If you would like more information on staying active, the
following resources are available:
America On the Move offers free, personalized online
resources, interactive tools, community support, and events. This program helps
you build eating and activity habits that positively affect your weight and
HealthierUS.gov provides information on physical
activity, diet, disease prevention, and making healthy choices.
Shape Up America! is a national coalition of industry
and medical experts in nutrition and fitness. Its goals are to make Americans
more aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and to provide
information about how to lose weight and stay fit. The organization has
published several booklets on weight loss and diet, which can be ordered from
the Web site.
Return to topic:
Fitness: Getting and Staying Active
October 25, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Heather Chambliss, PhD - Exercise Science
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