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10 Easy Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

Try these tricks to become one of the fitness faithful
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Let's face it: it's not all that difficult to start a fitness routine. After all, most of us have done it more than once.

The trouble, of course, comes with sticking with it. All too often, our initial enthusiasm and energy wanes, we get distracted by other things going on in our lives, or we don't think we're seeing results quickly enough -- and we throw in the towel.

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Yet many people do manage to hang in there, and would no sooner skip their regular workout than their morning shower. What's their secret?

A recent study by researcher Diane Klein, PhD, 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 with their regimes.

Their answers might surprise you. The exercisers were not as concerned with powerful pecs and awesome abs as they were with feeling good and being healthy.

Here's how the study participants ranked their motivators:

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

So, once you have your priorities in the right place, how can you become one of the fitness faithful?

WebMD has compiled 10 tips for making fitness a habit in your life. To create the list, we sought the help of Klein, along with long-term fitness buff Roy Stevens and his wife, Wanda, who is transforming her hit-and-miss exercise schedule into an almost-daily habit.

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.

"We've shifted our perceptions from regimented exercise to physical activity," says Klein, assistant professor of exercise, sports and leisure studies, and director of gerontology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Having a variety of activities -- weight lifting, walking, running, tennis, cycling, aerobics classes -- will ensure that you can do something regardless of the weather or time of day.

2. Commit to another person. "The social aspect of exercise is important for me," says Wanda Stevens, a stay-at-home mom in Austin, Texas. "I'll let myself off, but if I've agreed to walk with a friend after dinner, I won't let them down."

She is six weeks into an exercise program, thanks in part to her husband's support. Roy Stevens, who works as a management consultant, has become her "in-house personal trainer." They work out together every morning, doing a combination of aerobics, strength training, Tae Bo, and stretching. If he's out of town, he gives her a wake-up call, and she takes the dog for a walk.

3. Make exercise a priority. "It has to be a non-negotiable," says Roy Stevens.

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