How to get into the habit of exercising every day

How to Get into the Habit of Exercising Every Day

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Frequently I will have clients seek guidance on how to get into the habit of exercising every day. Exercise is an important component of mental health as it decreases cortisol levels (a stress hormone), stimulates the process of neurogenesis, it helps to increase dopamine and serotonin levels. If you exercise, it helps to cut anxiety and stress as well as it can increase your quality of sleep. Exercise is an activity that promotes self-esteem, can even help you build sexual desire, and can even help with adult ADHD and anxiety. Let me also say that anyone considering exercise should first check with the physician to make sure they are cleared for physical activity. One more cautionary note, exercise, like most things, should also be kept in moderation and the body needs time to repair. Too much of anything can be bad for us. Make sure to consult with someone (counselor, dietician, doctor) if you have questions about what is the right balance for you.
  • One simple tip can be to write out a 30-day plan but make it simple. This could be things like walking for 30 minutes. Take a picture of this schedule and make it your phone home screen.
  • A doctor once recommended a plan that was for someone trying to get back to running. It involved starting with walking for 10 minutes, every other day for a week. Then the next week you would walk for 50 seconds and jog for 10 seconds. Then each week you up it by 10 seconds till you are finally running for 10 minutes. After this you up it by 1 minute of running time each time you run.
  • Smartphones can help or hurt as they can distract too. My favorite apps are Beachbody On DemandNike Training ClubNike Running ClubCouch to 5k, and Sworkit. Beachbody has a huge selection of programs you can do and for the home workout person, this one is great. It has a variety of levels of programs for men and women that help you to stretch, do cardio, bodyweight, or limited weights home workouts in 30 minutes or less. They also have some yoga and pilates programs too. You can put the app on a mobile device but I would suggest you stream it to a TV. They are very cost effective if you are looking to avoid going to the gym. Nike Training Club is a fantastic app that for working out at home or at the gym. You can select the intensity, equipment available, and time available to help tune the workout. You can also do some workouts designed by professional athletes. Whatever your skill level, it has options and the videos and audio cues give you tips on form and instructions. Nike Running Club is very similar and each will build personalized plans for you with notifications to remind you to stay on track. Couch to 5K is similar to the program the doctor above had mentioned. It’s a real gradual program that helps you get going with running. Sworkit is my workout in a pinch option. Truth be told, I used to do this in my office while on a break. Even if you have 5 minutes, it’s fantastic and it’s something.
  • Tell friends and family about your goal. Nothing helps like externalizing your goal.
  • I suggest looking at your schedule and looking at where might make the most sense to insert exercise during the day.
  • Get a workout partner. Nothing helps like a good accountability partner. I tend to suggest selecting someone who is good with staying with goals and possibly is ahead of where you are.
  • If things get off track, take stock and see why. Did you go to bed to late? Did you pre-pack a gym bag? If not, might that help? Would getting a locker at the gym help? Does time of day or hunger limit you? Does proximity to the gym factor in?
  • Put a picture or a phrase that will encourage you somewhere to help remind you of your goal.
  • Get a trainer – This is a more expensive option but they can help keep you on track.
  • Do a group exercise class. These are lower cost and can have a lot of social support.
  • If you have home exercise equipment or go to the gym, make the time more enjoyable by streaming your favorite show on your iPad or smartphone. I tend to watch shows that are compelling and adrenaline-inducing so I can have more pep in my step. If you are into gaming, watch things on Twitch.
  • Some might find that they like to play games while they workout. This can be done if you are recumbent biking and playing a mobile device based game. There are also apps that really make working out into a game like Zombies, Run!
  • Would walking with a neighbor or getting a dog help you?
  • What about joining a running club? These groups of runners meet at a specific time and have different skill levels.
  • Would it help you to make phone calls and catch up with friends or family as you walk?
  • Would an Apple Watch or Fitbit help keep you on track? I use the Apple Watch and it pushes notifications as me and my friends hit our daily workout goals.
  • Do you prefer hiking or outdoor things like frisbee golf?
  • Would joining an adult sports league help you? Things like this can be fun and you can try different sports.
  • Orange Theory, Soulcycle, Barre classes, yoga, pilates – all of them can be fun. Try different ones and see what fits. Do you have any friends that also go?
  • ClassPass can give you a TON of options if you are the type that can easily plan ahead and doesn’t mind the variety. I find it’s best for those who preplan their week of workouts.
  • Beth Myler, LCSW, JD suggests to “Work with a coach or counselor trained in the science of health promotion. There is robust research evidence supporting specific interventions designed to cultivate motivation for behavior change and sustain positive changes. It is increasingly clear that working with a coach/counselor improves outcomes.”

Whatever you end up doing, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t and learn from it. Personally, being a little ADHD, I end up liking having a variety of things to do. I go to the gym, do home workouts, run alone and with friends, workout with friends, use apps to help workout, etc. I have also learned a lot from what doesn’t work… I don’t like going to the same type of class over and over. If I don’t pack a gym bag the night before I am not going. If I am going to do elliptical, it helps to have a show I like already identified before I go. If I don’t have charged Bluetooth headphones, I am less likely to go (hint, keep a charger and cable in your gym bag or use Apple Airpods). If I am hungry, recently ate, or tired, I have a hard time going (hint, find snacks like nuts that can help give you some quick energy but don’t weigh you down or change the time you go). What have you learned from your experiences and how do you find exercises helps you? Want to let us know how to get in the habit of exercising every day? Tweet us @justmind and let us know. Also, if you need support for things like adult counseling or ADHD counseling, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment.

William Schroeder is passionate about exercise and owns a counseling practice in Austin, TX. He also loves good food.

Photo by Kristian Egelund on Unsplash