Those with sedentary lifestyles who wish to make exercise a daily ritual often find that getting started is the hardest part. Yet building an exercise habit means getting started repeatedly. The most consistent exercisers are those who make exercise a specific type of habit, known as an instigation habit. This type of habit is thought to be beneficial to health behavior maintenance, as it requires minimal thought and makes going to the gym or out for a walk a routine occurrence. An instigation habit is an automatic decision triggered by an internal or environmental cue that can be as simple as hearing your alarm go off in the morning, signaling it’s time for a run, or going to the gym at the end of the work day instead of going straight home.
Developing any healthy habit is hard work, and exercise is no exception. However, focusing on cues makes habits not only easier to form, but also harder to break. Studies have found that exercise instigation habit strength is the only unique predictor of exercise frequency. Instigation habits differ from execution habits in that cues prompt one to automatically exercise without having to consider the pros and cons. By contrast, an execution habit simply means following an exact routine once you are at the gym. One study found that it’s not what you do for exercise that matters, it’s how you get yourself there that’s important.
For those new to exercise, sticking with the same routine, such as running on the treadmill, can help build self-confidence or enable one to become more comfortable going to the gym. Until one gains confidence in their activity, it can help to follow a routine exercise program. However, it doesn’t appear that doing the same activity time after time has any effect on long-term exercise frequency. Once established, an instigation habit allows one to try new types of exercise without fear of losing the habit. Research shows that by building an instigation habit, one can stick with an exercise plan that encompasses different activities, helpful for those who may be stuck in an uninspiring, monotonous routine.
Setting a habit requires consistency. Many of us may have tried and failed to set up a regular routine, even though we know how important exercise is to both short and long-term health. Those who exercise regularly are not only healthier but are often more energetic and less stressed. Scientific studies have shown that we can’t simply rely on willpower to change our behavior. Good habits are formed based on consistency, not frequency. Initially, it may help to set a plan to workout just one day a week and arrange your schedule around it. Make it so easy that you can’t say no, even when lacking motivation, so that you don’t skip the workout for any reason. Once consistency is established, add a second workout that you are sure not to miss. As time goes on, add other days to your schedule until you are working out at least three days each week and the workout becomes automatic.
As willpower is a limited resource, it often helps to focus on establishing a realistic process that you know you can handle. For many, this means making slow and steady progress with a focus on the journey, rather than the results. Initially, it’s more important not to miss workouts than to make progress. While we may dream of running a marathon or getting six-pack abs, getting into tip-top shape takes perseverance and patience. Set a realistic, results-oriented goal and be persistent. Remember that every journey begins with the first step. Today, your goal may be to exercise one day per week, but you can keep your eye on future goals to run that marathon next year or two years from now, as you gradually become stronger and healthier. Focus on the cues that will get you there. When you develop a ritual that makes starting your workout mindless and automatic, it will be much easier to follow through. Build the instigation habit first and focus on results later.
Professional Supplement Center carries these and other high quality products to support optimal health:
PreTrain NRG™ by Designs for Health®: This specific workout formula provides safe, beneficial nutrients to help support athletic focus, strength, mental energy and recovery, as well as reduced fatigue resulting from training. Powdered, natural strawberry flavored, gluten free formulation.
Athletic Nutrients by Pure Encapsulations®: Designed to support physical training and performance, this complete hypoallergenic, nutrient-rich multivitamin, mineral and trace element formula targets energy and endurance and lessens muscle fatigue. Highly bioavailable nutrients provide support for healthy muscle function, as well as healthy tendons, ligaments and joints. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Energy/Sports Formula™ by Douglas Laboratories®: This comprehensive formula provides a synergistic blend of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and botanicals specifically designed to provide intensive support for energy metabolism during sport and exercise. Gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, yeast, preservative and artificial ingredient free formulation.
Sport Oxylent Blueberry Burst by Oxylent®: This 3-in-1 powdered supplement supports sustained energy, stamina and enhanced recovery. Science backed ingredients include amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes fortified with BioPerine® for enhanced absorption. Alaskan blueberry flavor, natural fruit and vegetable coloring, sweetened with stevia. Gluten, dairy, soy, caffeine and sugar free, Non-GMO formulation.
Habitual exercise instigation (vs execution) predicts healthy adults’ exercise frequency. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26148187
Habitual instigation and habitual execution: Definition, measurement, and effects on behavior frequency. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26991427
It’s Not What You Do, but How You Get Yourself to Exercise that Matters, study finds. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150709093309.htm
3 Simple Ways to Make Exercise a Habit. https://jamesclear.com/exercise-habit
Using Behavioral Science to Build an Exercise Habit. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/using-behavioral-science-to-build-an-exercise-habit/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly-review&utm_content=link&utm_term=2018-05-02_top-stories&spMailingID=56533667&spUserID=MjQ1NDk3Mjg2NTEzS0&spJobID=1400329062&spReportId=MTQwMDMyOTA2MgS2