Although many of us vow to start exercising regularly, few of us actually do. And, even fewer go on to make fitness a lasting habit. Although becoming fit for life may seem like an intimidating goal, it is not impossible. After all, your Insta feed is filled with fitness models that are doing it. You wonder if they can do it, why can’t you? The truth is that you can and I am going to provide you with some tips to help you make fitness a lifelong habit.
I am not saying it will be easy. It will take hard work and some dedication to get over the inevitable slumps. Remember, lifelong fitness is a trial and error process. But if you stick with it, you will be rewarded.
Why is it that healthy fitness habits always start out with a bang before fading into oblivion?
We all begin with good intentions. We want to be fitter, healthier, and happier. So, we make grand plans to embark on a new, more intense, fitness program.
Much to our surprise, we begin to get everything we want. We are more energized, our exercise capacity increases, and our muscles start to feel firmer. It’s great, right?
But then comes your vacation or you get sick. Or just as you get started, your schedule at work gets busier. There’s always something that gets in the way.
Once you’ve gone through the cycle of on-again-off-again more than once, you may even be discouraged to start a new fitness program. After all, what’s the point if it’s not sustainable?
Here are some ways you can make fitness a lasting habit
1. Make concise goals and be realistic
A study published in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sports examined the effect of goal-setting on athletic rehabilitation and training. The authors found that people who followed a realistic plan of action were more prepared and more successful in their efforts.
Set specific goals
Start out by specifying why you want to “get fit” in the first place. Having specific and concise goals gives you a clear direction to the steps that need to be taken in order to succeed.
Ask yourself why you value health and fitness. Is it to lose weight and love what you see in the mirror? What about improving a current health condition? Do you want to focus more on self-care? Whatever the reasons may be, they are the foundation of your fitness journey and reminders of why you are starting it in the first place.
Be realistic about your expectations and limitations. Suddenly becoming a pro at exercise and dieting will not happen overnight. You also won’t be able to suddenly run three miles after a long period of not being active at all.
Don’t beat yourself up
Don’t be so hard on yourself if you cannot exercise for more than thirty minutes or if you make the mistake of skipping out on a workout. Don’t beat yourself up if you succumb to the temptation of a guilty treat.
Constantly berating yourself for not being perfect is severely discouraging. It makes you more inclined to give up on accomplishing your goals.
What ultimately matters are that you get back up again. Don’t make excuses. Instead, continue to move forward.
No one starts out perfectly on the road to self-improvement—we’re all human after all!
2. Confront your bad habits and vices
It is important to acknowledge and overcome bad habits and vices in order to improve your health. They are harmful actions that can become problematic coping mechanisms.
For example, when you’re stressed and anxious, do you find yourself reaching for an alcoholic drink? At the moment, this action may seem harmless. It may even temporarily relieves stress. But if consumption increases, even gradually, and is repeated over time, it has the potential to become an addiction.
One glass of wine can turn into two or three. It may even lead to episodes of binge drinking.
Break bad habits
Bad habits may stem from stress or boredom. To break them, you must first ask yourself some questions:
- Why do you have them in the first place?
- What triggers you to do them?
- What are the scenarios that happen?
Once you figure out the catalyst of a bad habit, try to replace it with a good one—such as exercise!
Just be sure to remain consistent with that new habit of exercise. A Journal of Behavioral Medicine study found that new gym members who exercised at least four times a week for six weeks were more successful at maintaining a habit of exercising.
And this proves that a little hard work and consistency upfront can pay off in the long run.
3. Stay organized and consistent with a workout schedule
Integrate fitness into your daily routine
Integrate fitness into your daily routine. If working out becomes a part of your schedule, you are less likely to falter from it.
Create a game plan
Additionally, create a game plan and have a purpose for each workout. Don’t mindlessly go to the gym and expect yourself to exercise to the best of your abilities. Otherwise, you may end up wasting time or giving your workout a half-hearted effort since you didn’t have any clear goal in mind!
Be realistic about your time
Be realistic about the amount of time you have available within a day and throughout the week as well. Starting off thinking you’re going to work out every day for one hour is setting yourself up for immediate disappointment. Instead, gradually lengthen the time you spend exercising and make exercise convenient for your lifestyle.
Related Content: Is Your Favorite Exercise Excuse Bogus?
4. Plan and prepare your meals ahead of time
In conjunction with a well-thought-out plan for your workouts, you must plan and prepare your meals ahead of time as well.
A 2017 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that people who prepped their meals a few days in advance were less likely to be overweight. They were also more likely to stick to nutritional guidelines.
Include healthy foods in your plan
When you plan your meals, choose to consume more wholesome foods instead of processed foods, including:
- fruits and vegetables,
- healthy fats, and
- proteins such as oils, meats, and nuts
A common belief some individuals have is that they can eat whatever they desire as long as they work out and still yield the same results as a healthy diet. That is not the case.
Processed foods fail to provide you with the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function properly. Despite exercising and burning off a few calories, you’ll never lose weight nor improve your health—in fact, you may even make it worse!
Meal prepping reduces temptation
Meal prepping kills the temptation of eating out or snacking on something unnecessary. By dedicating a day or two to preparing meals for a week, you remove the stress of worrying about what to eat or cook for dinner since everything is already prepared for you.
This way, you can also adequately consume your recommended calories and accurately track your diet progress.
5. Participate in activities that you enjoy
If you choose a workout that makes you miserable, you will never feel motivated to participate in it. Think about who you are as a person. Do you prefer activities that are slow and leisurely or aggressive and fast-paced? You might be better suited to partake in yoga or hiking as opposed to experiencing combat sports.
Whatever your fitness personality may be, don’t be afraid to experiment with multiple activities. It may take some time, but don’t get discouraged if activities don’t click right away.
Once you find the exercise perfect for you, everything can only go uphill from there. Enjoying what you’re will motivate you to improve upon your current skills and challenge yourself to surpass previous limitations.
Related Content: 5 Simple Fitness Workouts That You Can Do At Home
6. Celebrate your accomplishments
Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments no matter how big or small. Every goal that you accomplish is a step forward on a fitness journey.
The worst disservice you can do to yourself is to undercut your successes. This form of negative thinking is more harmful than helpful since it devalues your efforts.
Learn to support, affirm, and be proud of yourself, rather than critical. Furthermore, avoid the trap of comparing yourself to others. Each person is at a different place in their lives and fitness journeys. You are no different. It is self-defeating to believe you must be successful or healthy in a fixed amount of time.
This may seem like a step you can skip, but celebrating your accomplishments can really help keep you on track. And that celebration can be as simple as sharing your results in a before-and-after photo or social media post.
A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that although most people are motivated by recognition, the size of the celebration doesn’t matter.
7. Track your progress
Implement the use of a journal or app to track workouts and diet. You should even take progress pictures every week! Your progress acts as a motivator since consistent effort yields noticeable results over time.
The act of tracking progress can also help you notice patterns, habits, or inconsistencies that can be changed in your workouts or diets for the better.
For example, you may tend to skip exercising and a meal-prepped lunch more on the weekends since that’s when you socialize most with friends and family. This problem can be solved by choosing not to see them during the day when you’re about to eat or get hungry.
While tracking progress may initially seem laborious, it forces you to be disciplined and constantly aware of your efforts.
Remember, habits are everyday efforts—the fitness habit is
The bottom line
Staying consistent with health and fitness is not a passing fad. It’s an act of taking care of yourself. Prioritizing your health and fitness may feel difficult at first, but once you get the hang of your workout routine and eating habits, everything gets easier from there.
Regardless of what may come up in your life, make a point to stick to your plan for at least six weeks, and it’ll be all downhill from there.
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Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing. He's written a variety of education, travel, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies and is currently writing for Sober Nation.
Trevor graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with a degree in Communications and subsequently moved to California to pursue his dream freelance writing, which he's been doing for close to 8 years.
He is a member of the American Communication Association and Editorial Freelancers Association. You can find articles by Trevor on New Life Outlook, SOS Safety Magazine, The Self Improvement Blog, and many more.
In his free time, you can find Trevor running with his dog, playing his guitar or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.