Six top tips to form good fitness habits

What is a habit?

Habits are shortcuts according to James Clear in his book Atomic Habits. Humans fall into them because we are always unconsciously looking for quick and easy ways to get things done. What could be easier than repeating an action you’ve done countless times before?

Forming a habit is a psychological trick we have gained as we evolved our large and complex brains. It’s a process that helps us get through life more efficiently.

Why do we form bad habits?

The problem is short term efficiency isn’t necessarily always good for us. This is especially true as we all respond to emotional triggers, struggle to overcome worry and anxiety and crave those all-important dopamine hits. Think of the quick sugar hit you get from some foods, the immediate calmness you might feel after a cigarette or the social tension melting away after your third glass of wine.

We can quickly descend into a bad habit loop, as described by author Charles Duhigg, which sees us responding to cues and triggers without considering the long term impact on our health and well-being.


How to form good fitness habits?

We know it is hard to put words into practice and fulfil even the best intentions. This is because it is human nature to resist change. It is based on our brain chemistry so there’s no getting around it. Habit loops may have been in place for a lifetime. Changing them and creating new ones are both challenging.

The good news is, we have collated the following top tips for anyone looking to form good fitness habits.

1. Prioritise Keystone First

Some good habits have wider, more positive benefits than others. Being more punctual The term keystone habit has been used to describe these super good habits that improve things across the board.

Forming good exercise habits

The NHS recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.

Keeping active impacts positively on your work, home life, relationships and productivity. It also helps you reduce the risk of heart diseases, helps you manage your energy levels, improves your mental health and mood and keeps your thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp.

Forming good exercise habits you make significant improvements to a broad range of areas in your life. It’s why we started Activ at Home.

Forming good diet habits.

The benefits of a healthy diet include better weight control, reduction in the risk of serious disease and improving mood and mental health.

There are lots of good food habits to form from cooking more at home through committing to your 5 a day to making more low-fat and low-sugar choices.

You can help them stick by changing your shopping habits to have more of the right ingredients at home, eating regularly with set meal times (a great way to bond with friends and family too) and checking if any favourite recipes healthier alternatives.

Forming diet habits has to be more than simply cutting out bad things. Feeling hungry, or that you are missing out, will not help make behaviours stick.

Many of those who have successfully formed new diet habits talk about falling in love with food again, discovering new tastes and developing new appetites.

Forming Good Sleep Habits

Poor sleep can have serious knock-on effects for your overall health and wellbeing including a greater risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Tiredness makes us more irritable and anxious and can be the course of accidents and injuries at home and work.

Good sleep is regular controlled sleep. The first tip is to establish a night-time routine that includes winding-down time free from exercise, TV, phones and tablets and stimulants including food and alcohol. Your preparation might include a warm bath before bed, keeping the temperature in the room cool, creating a dark quiet environment or even using specially developed sleep apps and relaxation tools.

Good sleep has so many benefits to your physical and mental health. It is not a surprise that achieving it every night is considered a keystone habit.

2. Use the 21/90 day fitness habit rule

Research tells us that it can take up to 90 days of conscious effort for any new behaviour to feel normal. This is best explained in the 21/90 day rule created by Dr Maxwell Maltz, inventor of Psycho-Cybernetics. His work states repetition over 21 days will form a habit. A 90-day stretch will mean a permanent change in your lifestyle.

Knowing where you are, at any point in your 21/90 day timeline, can help you track your progress and celebrate your successes.

3-Reward yourself for your fitness habit successes

We are here to challenge that perception and, while we can’t promise laughs all the time, we love to celebrate success.

The first secret to your reward strategy is being clear what success looks like. What does the new, good habit feel like? It is worth being strict with yourself about rules here because it is so easy, and tempting, to cheat. Don’t be that person and only reward yourself when you’ve genuinely done well.

The second secret of rewarding yourself is knowing what you love to do, eat, drink, see or hear. Your reward could be watching a favourite film, having a little ice cream, going dancing or taking a walk in the hills. There are no rules, just what makes you happy.

Reward yourself immediately. Over 15 minutes after a habit-forming event is too long to wait. Give yourself that dopamine hit quickly and it will make a difference. Besides, why hold back? You’ve earned it.

4-Maintain a Fitness Habit Schedule

If you are one of those people who strictly diarise their life already, you will have a head start on the rest of us. Keeping track of your time, behaviour and progress by committing to a schedule is incredibly useful. If you can tick off the hours, days, weeks and months, you will be able to understand the habit-forming process as it happens.

Countless fitness and diet apps will help you do this, however, there is a lot to be said for simple pen and paper too. The only perfect system is the one that works for you.

The more organised you are and the more strictly you stick to any promises you have made to yourself, the more likely it is you will succeed in forming new fitness habits.

5-Share your fitness habits

A problem shared is a problem halved, so they say. It is certainly easier to form good habits if you are amongst a community doing the same thing. Even sports and activities you might consider obscure will have a following and, potentially, a club to join. This means you can be confident that whatever challenges face you, you’re not alone.

It helps if you spend time with people who model the habits you aspire to too. They can act as inspirational role models, provide examples of what works and warn you of pitfalls based on their experiences.

Activ at Home is already a thriving network of people looking to change their fitness habits for the better. You are welcome to join right now.

6-Feel positive about your new fitness habits

The mental gymnastics around a new fitness habit can sometimes feel as challenging as the physical. However, maintaining a positive mindset is the key to success. Concentrating on the good news, treating small transgressions lightly and remaining calm and focused will all help. Keeping a journal is often recommended as a way of managing your feelings about change too.

 Other positive mental health tips include meditation, mindfulness, eating well, avoiding alcohol and drugs, enjoying the natural world and carefully managing stress.

While fitness is serious, we think humour and fun are important. This is reflected in all our classes. You can check out the Activ at Home schedule here. We look forward to seeing you soon.
6 Steps to Forming Good Fitness Habits
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