12 Ways to Help Make Exercise a Habit

"Nothing will work unless you do."

John Wooden, UCLA legendary basketball coach, NCAA hall of fame

Most of us would agree that it's not hard to start an exercise routine. After all, most of us have done it more than once.

The trouble, of course, comes with sticking to an exercise program. All too often, the excitement and energy we had at first starts to fade away and we only think of the other things going on in our lives, or we don't think we're seeing results quickly enough -- and we forget about our exercise routine.

Yet, for many people, exercise has become a part of their daily routine. How can we make exercise a habit?

Below are some tips that can help:

1. Pick a variety of fun things to do. If you don't like what you're doing, most likely you won't stick with it. If you are not sure what you like, try different things. And remember, there's no rule that says you have to go to a gym or buy lots of exercise equipment. Having a lot of different activities -- weight lifting, walking, running, tennis, cycling, exercise videos, aerobics classes -- will also help make sure that you can do something no matter what the weather is like or what time of day it is.

2. Make exercise a priority. Don't let other things get in the way of the time you have set aside to exercise and take care of yourself. Remember, if you are in better physical health, it will give you more strength and energy to help you take care of the other things you need to do.

3. Exercise with someone else. Whether or not you're involved in a team sport - exercising together with a friend or spouse helps increase your commitment to exercise.

4. Schedule your workout. Write it on your calendar just like a meeting or appointment. Schedule your exercise sessions a week at a time, and write the day and time you plan to workout. And if you have to cancel a workout, reschedule it immediately. If you try to find time regularly to exercise, it won't just happen. You have to make the time!

5. Set a specific exercise goal. Write down your goals and review them often. Write down what activity you plan to do, on what day of the week, for how long, and at what time of day. Be as specific and realistic as possible. For instance, write down "Tuesday: Walk for 30 minutes at 7 p.m., to the high school and back." At the end of each week, review your goals and set new ones for the upcoming week.

Setting goals will help you stick to your exercise program. It will help you see what you're supposed to do and let you track your progress. If you hit a roadblock later on, you can look back to see what has worked in the past, or use your accomplishments to re-energize yourself.

6. Chart your progress. Start by getting a fitness assessment when you first begin a program. This is something you can even do on your own. Write down your weight, body measurements, your resting heart rate, and then record how long you're able to exercise on the first day. You can make weekly progress notes. In three months, you'll see how much progress you have made!

7. If possible, be a morning exerciser. Studies have shown that people are more likely to stick with a fitness program if they exercise first thing in the morning. There's less of a chance of other things getting in the way of your exercise time.

8. Exercise even when you're "too tired." You can do something with less intensity on days when you feel this way. Chances are, you'll feel better after exercising. Have you ever regretted exercising when you are done with a workout?

9. Do not follow the all-or-nothing approach to exercise. So you don't have an hour? How about 30 minutes? You can really have benefits from a 30-minute workout. And remember, if you have to split up your workouts so that you have two 15 minute walks instead of one 30 minute walk that is still the same total amount of exercise you were planning for that day.

10. Bounce back if you lose your routine. Sure there will be days when things come up or you will get sick and will not be able to exercise. Don't get discouraged. Just get back into your exercise routine as soon as you are able and start slow if you need to. Don't put it off - do your best to make exercise a priority in your life as soon as possible!

11. Be aware of all the different ways that show how exercising helps you. It's great when you weigh less, your clothes fit better and you can lift heavier weights or work out longer without getting tired. But there are lots of other ways you can see how exercising on a regular basis has helped you, such as:

• Getting a good night's sleep.

• Thinking more clearly.

• Having more energy.

• Seeing your resting heart rate drop over time.

• Hearing your doctor congratulate you on improved cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood sugars.

12. Reward yourself.

Decide on a goal and a reward, and work toward it. You might buy yourself a new exercise video you've wanted after you stick to your fitness plan for one month, or buy new walking shoes when you have built up to walking 2 miles a day. Make sure the rewards are not food related - instead, reward yourself with things that support your healthy lifestyle.

Q. Where do I start if I have never exercised?

If you're new to exercise, or have had problems starting an exercise program in the past, talk with your doctor about your exercise plans. Then along with beginning your exercise program, try and make physical activity a part of your daily schedule. For instance:

• If you usually take the elevator, try the stairs.

• Park farther away from the store or from work and walk.

• If your habit is to eat at your desk at work, take a 10- to 20-minute walk first, then have your lunch.

• Instead of watching TV during the evening or all weekend, plan some fun activities. Go to the park, take a walk, ride your bike or go on a hike.

The TCRHCC Diabetes Prevention Program and Health Promotion/Disease Prevention (HP/DP) program also has community fitness programs to help you stick with your exercise routine. These include:

The "Rez Challenge" - a series of walks/runs with prizes for all participants. All the events will have health booths on performance nutrition, training tips, and diabetes prevention. Pre-registration and a small fee is required.

o In Tonalea: 2 mile walk/5 mile run - March 19

o In Tuba City: 3 mile walk/8mile run - April 19

o In Moenkopi: 5 mile walk/10 mile run - May 10

Fitness Classes (such as aerobics, strength training and pilates) are being held at the Tuba City Jr High School Gymnasium on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30pm - 6:30pm and from 12 noon-1pm on Tuesday and Thursdays now through April 3rd. Any adult may participate free of charge. No need to pre-register.

For further information about these community fitness programs, please contact Jerilyn Slim at the TCRHCC Diabetes Prevention Program/HPDP Program at (928) 283-1420.

Remember, you can make exercise a habit! We all have setbacks from time to time, but as soon as you are able, get back into your routine and make taking care of your health a priority!

For further information and ideas about how to make exercise a habit, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/life/index.htm

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