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10 easy ways to make exercise a habit

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Many people start new fitness routines each year, but lots of them don't stick at it.

All too often, our initial enthusiasm wanes, we get distracted by other things going on in our lives, or we don’t think we’re seeing results quickly enough. At that point we often give up.

One study shed some light on the subject. Long-term exercisers, who had been working out for an average of 13 years, were asked to rank what motivated them to keep up their fitness regimes.

Their answers might surprise you. The main attraction for them was feeling good and being healthy. Here are the study results in order of what motivated them most.

  • Fitness
  • Feelings of well-being
  • Energy
  • Enjoyment of the exercise
  • Making exercise a priority
  • Sleeping better
  • Feeling alert
  • Being relaxed
  • Weight management
  • Appearance

So, how can you become one of the fitness faithful?

Here are 10 tips for making fitness a habit in your life:

1. Do a variety of activities you enjoy. And remember, there’s no rule that says you have to go to a gym or buy equipment.

Do a variety of activities, such as walking, running, tennis, cycling or aerobics classes, as this will ensure you can exercise regardless of the weather or time of day.

2. Commit to another person. It’s easier to exercise with someone else and the social aspect of exercise becomes important.

It is more difficult to let a friend down if you've agreed to go for a walk.

3. Make exercise a priority. It has to be a non-negotiable, no matter how busy you are.

Another advantage in making exercise non-negotiable is that friends and family learn that it’s part of your identity. This means they give up saying things like, "Why don't you take it easy today?"

4. Exercise first thing in the morning to fit in with family life. Consider getting up before the children to exercise. Many experts also agree that exercising in the morning is best. Exercise, have a shower and you can feel energised for the day.

5. Alternatively, exercise on your way home from work. This is the next best thing to exercising first thing in the morning. Take your gym bag with you, don't go home first, so you avoid the temptation to stay at home.

6. Exercise even when you’re "too tired." The chances are you’ll feel better after exercising. This is because exercise energises us.

7. Keep a record of your activity. Write down the things that are important to you. It could be how much time you exercise each day, how many steps you walked, how far you ran or cycled, what you weighed etc.

Some people make a game of it. Some runners calculate how many miles away a particular place is from their home and then work out how far they run in an average week, setting a target date for "arriving" at this destination.

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