How to get fit – five habits to make exercise easier

Behaviour Change Adviser at Bupa UK
08 December 2016

For quite a lot of us, going to the gym or out for a run is something you have to ‘make’ yourself do. Yet after you’ve done your workout you feel amazing! So why is it so hard to gear yourself up for exercise when you know you’ll feel good afterwards? You might even know someone who ‘loves’ to exercise, who genuinely enjoys and looks forward to it. So what’s their secret?

A runner in headphones gets music ready on his phone

We’re not all lucky enough to naturally love exercise, but there are some little things you can try to make exercise easier to do. Doing the exercise is often the easiest part – it’s the psyching yourself up beforehand that can be tricky. Try the following five tips to help make exercise a regular habit for you.

1. Start small but often

People who enjoy exercise do it a lot – they’ve built physical activity into their lives and it’s become a habit. Once habits are ingrained they’re easier to continue. This is because your brain gets used to the activity and it becomes automatic. So if you run on a Wednesday and do it enough times, it becomes your running day without you having to think about it.

But how do you get to that stage? The trick is to do a tiny version of the activity you want to build into your regular routine. For example doing just one press-up or running for just 30 seconds each day. Studies show that completing a mini version of your goal every day leads to you doing it for longer. So start small to begin with and watch your new activity grow.

2.Pick the right activity

Let’s say you’ve chosen to start running. But  you don’t enjoy running – in fact you hate it. You know yourself better than anyone, so why commit to running three times a week if you don’t enjoy it? Let yourself off the hook, and if running (or any other type of activity) isn’t for you, then that’s okay. You need to give yourself a fighting chance when it comes to adopting a new exercise routine – so pick something that suits you.

To do this, you need to draw on what you know about yourself and use it to find the activity you’re  most likely to stick to. Are there activities like cycling, dancing or boxing that you’ve enjoyed in the past? Or could you start playing a sport with your friends? Exercise that requires a pre-commitment (signing up for a class or making plans with a friend) is difficult to get out of, so you’re more likely to go.

For more information on different activities and how they influence our motivation, visit our blog: Understanding motivation and exercise. This will help guide you when choosing whether to do a team sport, racket sport, planned exercise or go it alone.

3.    Inspire yourself with motivational material

Surround yourself with inspiring content like podcasts, music, magazine articles and blogs. Material that motivates and inspires you to exercise ‘primes’ you to do it. Try it. Next time you want to skip your workout, listen to your favourite music playlist or read an article about Olympic athletes in your chosen activity. You could even try wearing your exercise gear around the house so you’re ready to get up and go. You’ll soon find what works for you.

Another trick is to think about how you’ll feel if you do skip your workout. Will you feel relieved and happy, or maybe a bit disappointed? What are you going to do with your time instead? Have a think, and who knows - you might decide to get moving after all.

4.    Get the timing right

Work out the best type of exercise for you.

Experiment with this one. Some people are a fan of HIIT training because it’s intense but doesn’t take long. Or you might prefer a long bike ride at the weekend. Maybe a burst at the gym during your lunch break would work for you. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour – the type of activity you do will guide the length of time you do it for.

To help you get started why not try our:

Work out the best time of day for your exercise.

Morning: Lots of people like to workout first thing in the morning – it gets it out of the way and you start the day on a positive note. Your willpower is also likely to be at its strongest first thing in the morning. Your willpower may fade after you’ve had a day filled with concentrating on tough work challenges and resisting temptation in the canteen.

Noon: If you’re not a morning person then you might want to make the most of your lunch break. A 30-minute walk or gym class is a great way to slot activity into your day so it doesn’t take up your leisure time.

Night: Evening might be the best time for you – a gentle evening swim for example can be a relaxing way to unwind. But be careful not to exercise too late or you might have trouble sleeping.

5. Use your mind to get in the zone

Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment without judgement – can help you get the most out of exercise. This technique has also been shown to improve willpower, so it might make it easier to get out there. Check out our video from Dr Meera Joshi, talking about how mindfulness can help improve sport performance.

Juliet Hodges
Behaviour Change Adviser at Bupa UK

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