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Fitness: Getting and Staying Active - Staying Active

Turning physical activity into a habit

Most people don't think about being active or inactive as a habit. But it is. And habits are affected by many things, including our work schedule, our home life, and our social life. When something becomes a habit, we don't think about it much—we just do it, like brushing our teeth.

The key to staying active is to make fitness a habit—something that you just do.

Experts say it takes about 3 months of repetition to form a habit. For some people, even 3 months isn't enough. So start small, and keep doing an activity until you no longer think about it as something "extra" that you have to do.

When you slip up, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Figure out what happened and how to keep it from happening again. Get right back into your physical activity routine, and don't look back.

actionset.gif Fitness: Making It a Habit

Maintaining the lifestyle

Many of the good things about being active, such as having more energy and being in a better mood, happen soon after you become more active. But some of the most important health benefits have to do with being active over many years. If you stop being active, you lose the fitness you achieved. Being consistent makes the most sense for your health.

To help make physical activity a long-term commitment:

  • Set goals. Develop and follow a specific program.
  • Make it a habit. Turn physical activity into a normal, pleasant, and routine part of your life.
  • Get the support of friends and family.
  • Expand your fitness activities through coaching, competition, and cross-training.
  • Add variety to your fitness program. Change the place, activity, and time.
  • Don't let reasons such as lack of time or bad weather slow you down.
  • Schedule your activity for times that you're likely to keep doing it. If you don't have time for one 30-minute walk, break it up into three 10-minute walks.
actionset.gif Fitness: Staying Active When You Have Young Children
actionset.gif Stress Management: Managing Your Time
Quick Tips: Having Enough Energy to Stay Active
Quick Tips: Staying Active in Cold Weather
Quick Tips: Staying Active in Hot Weather

Finding what works for you

When you have decided that you want to get fit, you will want to plan a physical activity routine. Although most people think of classes and specific activities (such as jogging or tennis) as the way to fitness, there are many ways you can work physical activity into your life.

actionset.gif Fitness: Adding More Activity to Your Life
actionset.gif Fitness: Choosing Activities That Are Right for You

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One Woman's Story:

Shellie, 39

"I realized that I had put myself on the back burner for too long and it was time for me to make time for myself, even if it was just a few minutes a day. I wrote myself a note and taped it to my bathroom mirror. It said, 'I will take a 10-minute walk during my morning coffee break every day this week.' " —Shellie

Read more about Shellie and how she became more active.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 25, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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