How to Make Exercising Habitual and Achieve Lasting Results
How many people do you know who’ve started an exercise program only to stop a few weeks or months later and whatever results they had achieved through the exercise program were lost? The sad fact is that the vast majority of people quit their exercise program within the first few months of starting.
My question is how can so many people fail to stick to their exercise program? Has our society become that lazy that we are committing slow suicide?
The answer is “NO”. There is nothing wrong with people, but there is something seriously wrong with the way the fitness industry is trying to get people to exercise.
The problem with the fitness industry is that it’s full of people who love exercising. They can’t understand people who don’t love to exercise and it is very evident by the exercise programs they come up with. The fact is most fitness professionals love feeling the burn when they lift weights, they love being sore the next day, and as a matter of fact, many of them believe that unless you feel the burn and unless you feel sore the next day, you do not get a good workout. They apply the same philosophy with their clients who are trying to start an exercise program not realizing that most people don’t love dying at the end of their workout and who don't love not been able to go up the stairs the next day. Many fitness professionals also believe that once people see results they will be motivated to keep going. So, they figure that the harder they push, the faster people would see results, and the more motivated they will be to workout. Well, in real life it does not work this way and to prove my point, think about this. According to statistics, 95% of people who lose weight regain the weight back. If seeing results was enough to keep people motivated to keep going, how come most people end up quitting their efforts? If seeing results was the only thing you needed to stay motivated, all people or at least most people who saw results should have been able to stick with whatever they did to get those results, right? Well as we know that is not the case!
Here is the reality: The best results in the world will not keep most people motivated if the results were achieved through a method that is overwhelming. The sad fact is that the way most exercise programs approach exercising is very overwhelming for most people and the fitness professionals refuse to see that. They keep blaming the people for being lazy or that they don’t want to get in shape bad enough.
“The best exercise program is the one you will do”
We Are Creatures of Habit
A fact fitness professionals need to realize is that humans are creatures of habit. Did you know that according to cognitive neuroscience, 95% of the things we do every day, our subconscious mind is in charge of? In other words, 95% of the time, we run on autopilot. The reason is because our conscious mind is very limited to the amount of information it can process. That is why any repetitive actions are taken over by your subconscious mind so your conscious mind can be free to do other things. Anytime you add a new action into your life that action requires conscious effort, which by the way is a form of discomfort. Eventually, if you keep repeating that action, the action becomes habitual so no conscious effort is required to keep taking that new action and you return back to your comfort zone. The more behaviors and actions you try to incorporate into your life all at once, the higher the discomfort you will feel and the longer it will take you to make the new actions and behaviors habitual, thus creating the chance that you will burnout before the new actions and behaviors have the chance to become habitual.
The only way to achieve sustainable weight loss is to make permanent changes in your daily habitual behaviors and actions. The only way you can do that is to change or develop one new behavior or action at a time. This is the best way to lose weight if you want to keep the weight off after you lose it. Many weight loss programs have tried to take shortcuts so they can deliver what people what “FAST RESULTs” and as you can see, it has not worked out that well. With most of the weight loss programs today people end up regaining the weight back.
A New Approach to Exercise
For people who want to start and stick to their exercise program for life so they can maintain the results they achieve through their exercise program for life, this is what I recommend:
Let’s say you are a complete couch potato and you have not exercised for years, but you would like to start. The first thing you need to realize is that the first goal of an exercise program is not to get you the results you want, but to help you develop the exercise habit. Once you get into the habit of exercising, only then can you push yourself to get the results you want. If you push yourself too early before developing the habit of exercising, chances are you will burnout and quit, regardless of results. The other thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need to push yourself that hard to get results. All you have to do is challenge your body a little bit more than what it is used to.
The best way to start getting into the exercise habit is to start with something that is easy to do. Walking is something that most people can easily do. I would start with walking 5 days per week for 5 minutes each time. That’s it! By keeping the walk so short, even on the days you don’t feel like walking, you are more likely to do it. Consistency is the key to developing new behaviors and by keeping the time short you are more likely to stick with it long enough to become habitual. Before you know it, 5 minutes of walking will become 10 and then 20 minutes and so on. The key here is that you will not end up walking 20 and 30 or more minutes every day because you have to, but because it's a habit, just like all other habitual behaviors you engage in every day without much conscious thought. Later you might want to add some resistance training. Start by doing exercises that you can do around the house like pushups or modified pushups if you can't do regular pushups. Using the same principle, start by doing pushups 3 days per week, whatever you can do. If you can only do 1, just do one, but keep doing that at least 3 days out of the week. You will find that over time you will be able to do more and before you know it you will find yourself doing push-ups 5 or more days per week. This is the best way to get into exercising. I have been using this philosophy to help my clients get into exercising for years with great success. I have people who when they first started hated exercising and now they exercise 5 and 6 days per week with absolutely no problem.
Unfortunately, this is not the way most exercise programs help people get into exercising. Most exercise programs and fitness professionals push people from the very start and people end up hating exercising.
Think about it! For those of you who have kids, when you were helping your kids to learn how to read, did you give them college level book to practice on? Of course not! First, you taught them the alphabet, then you had them practice reading on very simple and easy books and then as they got better you moved to more complicated books. What would have happened if as soon as your kids learned the alphabet you gave them some college book to practice on? Most likely your kids would have learned to hate reading because you made it too difficult too quickly. It's no different with exercising. You must start with a very simple exercise program that will be very easy for you to stick with long enough to make it habitual. Remember, through repetition is how you train your subconscious mind and develop new behaviors.
In conclusion, if you want to stick to your exercise program for life, you need to realize that the first goal of an exercise program is not the “end” result you want but to develop the habit of exercising. Once you have developed the exercise habit, the next goal will be to push yourself to get the results you want. Also, when it comes to exercising, some exercise is better than no exercise at all.