Making Exercise a Lifelong Habit
Exercise is good for you no matter how often you do it. Even a brisk 20-minute walk once a week can burn calories, ease stress and anxiety, and help your heart. But you’ll look and feel your best if you get at least 30 minutes of exercise that makes you breathe harder on all or most days of the week. Here are some ways to make exercise a habit.
- Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise routine, especially if you a health condition or a family history of heart disease or high blood pressure. If you are overweight, your health care provider may be able to give specific recommendations on how to start a program slowly and work up.
- Start slowly. Look for easy ways to add exercise to your life. Go for brisk walks. Ride your bike. Swim. Garden or do yard work. Park at the far end of a parking lot. Remember that you don’t have to do your daily exercise all at once. You might take a 15-minute walk on your lunch hour and another after work. Use commercial breaks while you watch television to get up and move, or even lift some light weights or do arm curls with canned goods. Getting up and walking or stretching during commercials will also help to get your heart rate up.
- Make exercise fun. Combine exercise with activities you enjoy. Walk regularly with a friend who makes you feel good. Listen to music or an audiobook by your favorite author while you work out at a gym. Take a class in a type of dance you love, whether it’s hip hop, ballroom, or country and western.
- Set goals and keep track of your progress. Track your goals and daily progress in a notebook or a file on your computer or smartphone. Reward yourself when you reach a goal, preferably with a non-food reward. Consider being accountable with another person who supports your goals.
- Take a long-term view. Remember that making a new habit takes time -- about a month for most people. Be patient if you make slow progress or find it hard to fit exercise into your life. Setbacks are normal, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. Keep trying new routines until you find one that works for you.