Three people talking and getting ready to go for a run as part of their exercise routine.

How to start an exercise routine – and stick with it

What do you do every day or nearly every day? There’s probably some personal hygiene stuff like brushing your teeth or washing your face on that list. There are probably also things like reading the news, checking a social media feed, or taking the dog out. Is exercise on your list? It might not be, but it’s easier than you think to make exercise as routine as the rest of your everyday activities.

Three simple rules to starting a new exercise routine

Work out in the morning, or work out at night? Exercise on an empty stomach, or don’t exercise unless you’ve had a snack? With all the contradicting information out there, no wonder so many people have a hard time starting an exercise routine!

Instead of worrying about details, follow three basic rules to start working on making physical activity a daily habit, instead of something that you know you should do, but can’t keep up with.

1) Make it enjoyable

There’s no reason to force yourself on a long treadmill run if you hate it more than doing chores. Find something that you actually like to do! This can’t be stressed enough: dreading your exercise time is a surefire way to keep it from becoming a part of your lifestyle.

2) Make it convenient

We humans like to think that we’re complex, but really, we’re easy to predict. A gym might seem amazing, or a workout class might be perfect for us on paper, but if the location is inconvenient or the class is too early in the morning, let’s face it: we aren’t going to stick with it. Try to make exercise as convenient as possible by making things easy – choose a gym that you can easily get to, pick classes or workout times that fit your schedule, and keep your gym bag packed at all times.

3) Don’t make your workouts too hard

There’s a difference between “I’ll feel this tomorrow” and “I’ll never do this again.” When you’re just starting to make exercise a regular part of your life, you want to focus on building habits, not on building a list of reasons why the gym is an evil place. There’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself – in fact, it’s great! But set the bar low in the beginning so that you keep coming back for more.

Three hacks to keep you active

When it comes to lifestyle advice, the word ‘hack’ gets used quite a bit, and it just means a shortcut that makes it easier for you to accomplish your goals. There are tons of exercise-related lifestyle hacks, but here are three of our favorites for you to keep in mind.

1) Remember that you can vary your routine

Some people love running five miles every morning, while for other people, that kind of repetition only motivates them to run in the opposite direction. If you’re like this, don’t be afraid to change up your activity throughout the week. Again, you don’t want to make exercise something tedious or something that you dread.

2) Schedule exercise

To put it simply, seeing exercise on your calendar is a great way to remember to do it. There aren’t many people who spontaneously work out; for most, a plan helps them stay on track throughout the week. Plus, scheduling exercise makes it a little harder for you to skip.

3) Avoid all-or-nothing thinking

Some days your workouts will be shorter. Some days you’ll have to skip them due to sleepiness, plans, or something unexpected that comes up. Approaching exercise with the mindset of a perfectionist is bound to make you feel like a failure at some point, which will only encourage you to feel bad about yourself and give up – or at least take an, ahem, extended hiatus from your routine. If you can’t exercise one day, enjoy the time off and use it to fuel your next workout session. Remember: just like habits aren’t built in a day, they’re not broken in one, either.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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