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How to develop a habit of working out

Here are five tips to form a habit

Kimberley Cruz teaches her Zumba class at the Provo Recreation Center in Provo in 2010.
Kimberley Cruz teaches her Zumba class at the Provo Recreation Center in Provo in 2010. With the holidays around the corner and winter setting in, it’s easy to lose motivation to work out.
Michael Brandy, Deseret News

With the holidays around the corner and winter setting in, it's easy to lose motivation to work out. Building a habit is hard enough and it's discouraging when new routines fall apart after a few days or weeks. So, here are some tips to form long-lasting habits that will help you stay on track.

Have a game plan

Forming a new habit isn’t easy so it’s important that you have a plan. Per The Guardian, sports and exercise psychology Helen O’Connor recommends putting together an “if and then plan” to work against any obstacles.

“For example,” she says, “if you want to play badminton every Thursday but your colleagues often tempt you out for a drink, be prepared and say to yourself beforehand, ‘If I get invited out for a drink I’m going to decline by remembering how good I’ll feel after badminton.’”

Create a ritual

Habits are repetitive behaviors. In a way, they are also about starting over and over again, writes James Clean, the author of “Atomic Habits.” If you can figure out a way to get started, you can develop a habit. This is where rituals and routines help.

You can create rituals and habits by “stacking your exercise habits on top of your current habit or by setting a schedule.”

Have fun with it

There are so many exercises to choose from, which is why exploring what you can enjoy is crucial. Some people prefer taking laps in the swimming pool, others enjoy dancing along to the music in a Zumba class. The possibilities are endless.

According to WebMD, you should consider where and how you like to exercise. Instead of picking up something that is a trend, do what suits you best, even if that means walking on the treadmill with a podcast on. And lastly, try different combinations of activities to keep it interesting.

Weight loss isn’t the only goal

If you exercise regularly, you are bound to lose weight but that shouldn’t be the only way to measure success. When you exercise more, you will get stronger and fitter, losing fat and gaining muscle, per The Guardian.

“Measuring other factors, such as how fast you can run a kilometer or how long it takes you to swim 500m, is a great motivator and shows you that you’re getting fitter and healthier, as well as slimmer,” says O’Connor.

Try it for a month

Commit to four weeks and that will help you build the habit. Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School of Business who studies human decision-making, told NPR that the key thing is repetition. “And if you can get that repetition going while you have high motivation, you’re much more likely to have a behavior change that lasts.”