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5 Easy Steps to Forming the Daily Exercise Habit

fit woman with towel around neckIn order to get active, healthy, and lose weight, you need to be moving in some way every single day. You know this. But easier said than done, right?

You probably also have a full schedule with kids, work, school, and obligations with no idea how to fit exercise in. Maybe you’ve tried before to exercise and it just always falls to the back of the priority list until it disappears completely.

But there are millions of other busy people out there who found a way to exercise every day, and if you really want it, you can too. Follow these steps and before you know it, you’ll be exercising every day.

Step 1 – Find Your Motivation

Don’t start exercising because you think you should, because others do, or even because I said you should. I do believe strongly in the health and mental benefits of exercise, but that won’t do you any good if YOU don’t believe it or fully understand it.

You have to want it and you have to know why. I’ll be honest, “Losing weight” won’t be enough 99% of the time. Losing weight takes time and your motivation will slack off before you start seeing real results. You might even GAIN weight when you first start exercising as you begin to put on muscle.

Soak in the physical, emotional, mental, and health aspects of why fitness is important, then decide what it means to you. Make a list of why you want to be fit and exercise, and hang it up where you can see it. Next to your alarm clock might be a good place if you’re exercising first thing in the morning. If you need help, read these:

Pick something you think you will enjoy. Don’t set yourself up for failure by choosing running if you hate to run. There are a bazillion different ways to get active, pick just one. You can always change later, or add variety later.

Step 2 – Choose Your Designated Exercise Time

Sit down and really think about your daily schedule. When do you always have free time, every day? Can you wake up a little earlier in the mornings? Can you do a little something after the kids go to bed? Can you take 30 minutes on your lunch break? Carve it out, and then make a back up plan for the days when things don’t go as planned.

Read here how to get a better workout in less time with HIIT.

Step 3 – Schedule It

Whether it’s your iPhone, your daily planner, or a calendar on your wall, schedule your workouts into your calendar. Any time I start a new fitness routine, I schedule alerts to go off when it’s time to work out.

These alerts go off on my iMac, my iPhone, and my iPad. I cannot ignore them, and on so many days it’s been the difference in me working straight through my workout time or getting up and doing it.

Step 4, the MOST IMPORTANT STEP  – Form the Habit First

I am here to tell you that the reason most people cannot make healthy habits stick is because they change everything all at once. The priority in the beginning is just to get into the habit, not to burn 1,000 calories or run a marathon.

It doesn’t matter if you burn 1,000 calories a day the first week if you are so shell shocked by the change in your life that you give it up in week 2. Forming the habit is building the foundation to which you will add to little by little as you go.

Here are 10 baby steps towards better health and fitness.

While forming the habit, the first thing you want to do is just get into the mindset of moving every day and carving out time in your schedule. So for the first week, start by just doing something, anything, for 5 minutes.

You’re rolling your eyes, aren’t you? 5 minutes of exercise isn’t going to do jack, Deanna. WRONG. 5 minutes a day is going to feel like no big deal to you that first week. THAT’S THE POINT! The easier it seems, the easier it will be to sustain. Your brain hates leaving the norm and prefers homeostasis. The smaller the change, the less likely it is to fight you.

Add 5 minutes each week until before you know it, you’re moving for 30 minutes to an hour every day. Do not worry yet about intensity, if you’re doing the right exercises, or if you’re burning enough calories.

Phase 1 is all about just building the habit. You might be tempted to do more, but just be patient. How sturdy is a structure with no solid foundation?

Once you have exercised daily for about 6-8 weeks, and you feel that you have mastered the habit and are consistent with your routine, only then should you begin to think about the right exercises, adding in strength training, and burning calories.

Step 5 – Go back to Step 1

If you fall out of the daily habit of exercising along the way, don’t waste one breath beating yourself up or making it an excuse to quit. What does that accomplish besides making you feel bad and taking you away from your goals?

Release any negativity, and analyze what went wrong. Could you move your workouts to a better time? Could you drop an obligation to make your workouts a priority? Do you need better motivation?

Do not, no matter what, give up. Reboot and start again. You’ll likely need to do this a few times, and I promise, every time it gets easier and easier. Start at step 1 – I know it’s frustrating, but slow progress is still progress.

Question: Do you exercise daily? How did you start the habit? What advice do you have to share?

  • Allison

    I work out 5 days a week. I always take Sunday off and that leaves me one other day not working out. For when something comes up or I want to sleep that extra hour. Great article, thanks!

  • Sue Harshbarger Kauffman

    I think starting out too fast is the biggest mistake people can make. They get sore, they feel bad, they quit and then feel like a failure. Starting with 5 minutes a day is a great suggestion.

    • Deanna Schober

      Thanks Sue! That’s so true about what it’s like when you attack exercise full speed…no wonder people give up so quickly.

  • Brenda

    Great article. I’ve been on my new regime now for a month and am starting to feel that “slacking” feeling coming on again. This article put things into perspective for me, especially the part about “do not give up” I have given up so many times in the past 5 years it isn’t funny! Thanks….I know we are going to experience times like this so Im just going to keep on going and get to where I want and need to be this time instead of letting old habits find their way back into my life like they always do…and than Im staring all over again! Not this time!

  • mrsshep2004

    Another thing I try to do is have clothes I only work out in. If I try to work out in clothes I also sit on the couch in then it wouldn’t make any difference to me if I just ended up sitting on the couch. But once I put my “work out” clothes on then I feel more compelled to work out. I don’t even ask myself if I want to work out. When the time comes I just get changed, then I can’t sit and watch TV.

  • Mark Turner

    I’m curious to know, with all the talk of HIIT training (and i believe in it) is there any benefit to going for a 4hr bike ride or 10km run. I imagine my endurance level would receive more benefit from this form of exercise? Is there room for both in one’s workout

    • Deanna Schober

      Their certainly is room for it, if your focus is in all-around athleticism and not training for one sport in particular. I do HIIT most of the time but try to do one long run or bike ride per week to make sure I’m improving endurance and stamina. Check out this article if you haven’t yet:

      • Mark Turner

        i’ve got 50kgs to shed roughly, so looking for an exercise that wont help me one day but leave me unable to walk for the next week. Tho diet is where i’m in most trouble, night shift and coke+junk food seem to go hand in hand

        • Deanna Schober

          Walking would be a great place to start!

      • Mark Turner

        plus your link was great..very helpful information

  • carol

    That is so true. Like you I always have my work out clothes on and your brain knows its time to work out. I do watch TV but do my floor work whilst its on.