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5 Secrets: How to Start and Sustain Fitness Habits

We’ve all heard it, and most health care providers have said it… regular exercise is an important part of maintaining wellness throughout your life.

About 52 percent of adults in the U.S. meet the guidelines for aerobic activity. And 21 percent meet the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. If you’re in these groups, congratulations. Give yourself a pat on the back.

If you’d like to boost your fitness, here are some secrets we’ll share for being more consistent about fitness activities.


  1. Be Flexible About Defining Exercise

    Exercise doesn’t have to mean a trip to the gym or getting hot and sweaty running or pumping weights. You can count a number of activities:

    • Park at the edge of the lot and walk in.
    • Take the stairs when in larger buildings.
    • Take a brisk walk around the park during a family picnic.
    • Paddle your kayak around a favorite lake.
    • Take a bike ride around the neighborhood.
    • Walk during a casual work meeting.
    • Mow the yard. Yes, this is a good workout, too! 
    • Find activities you like and do them.


  2. Have Fun with Your Activities

    To learn more about how having fun with fitness activities affects duration of the activities, researchers recruited folks at a gym. When given instructions for doing some weight workouts, the folks who were able to choose the exercise they liked did more repetitions than the folks who were instructed to do the exercise that would help them reach their health goals.

    Reaching health goals may motivate someone to exercise, but you’re more likely to be more active if you like your activity.


  3. Set an Exercise Routine

    People who are consistent with fitness activities have made a routine of exercising at the same time on the same days of the week. Habits tend to be hard to break. When your habit is good for you, it’s even easier to keep it going. When planning an exercise routine, be aware of the recommendations for how many times during the week you should exercise to give you the most benefit.  


  4. Use Visual Cues to Remind You to Exercise

    Studies have found that people who use visual exercise cues are more likely to stick to their exercise plans. A visual cue would be something like putting your walking or running shoes out where you change after work. Seeing your shoes will spark a reminder. Or leave your earbuds on the dresser to remind you to grab them on your way out for a walk or run. The more prominent your cues are, the more likely you’ll see them and follow through.


  5. Be Flexible About Exercise Planning

It’s essential to have a plan for fitting fitness activities into your life. You can boost your chances of accomplishing your exercise goals if you right them down.

That said, life can throw surprises your way. When that happens, don’t view your fitness activities as all or nothing.

If you plan to workout for 30 minutes but something comes up that causes you to shortcut your time, just roll with it. Workout for 20 minutes. Being active for any period of time is better than zero! Consistent exercisers build flexibility into their planning.


Now the next steps are up to you. Try out some fun ways to get moving. You don’t have to settle on one activity. In fact, the idea behind cross training is to do different exercise activities that combine to give you a well-rounded workout.

The American College of Sports Medicine has helpful guidance for everyone ready to start and stick with a fitness plan. It’s never too late to start. And the results will help you live well! 

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit organization that puts people, like you, first!

Meet the Author

Amy R. Ford, DO, practices Sports Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Aurora Medical Center in Summit, WI

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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