I’m far from the first person to say it, but exercise is essential for our overall health. Exercise helps with boosting your mood, relieving stress, increasing energy, improving sleep quality and lowering your risk for diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and many more.
You might be wondering, if exercise is so important to our overall health, then why can it be so dang hard to do?
Trust me, I get it. I live an active lifestyle, working out every day, and yet I still have that mental debate each and every day where I spend several minutes attempting to talk myself out of exercising. Though I never regret working out after the fact, it can be hard to jump the mental hoop.
Over the years, I’ve found some easy tricks to get myself more active daily. And no, going to the gym and doing a hard-core weight workout isn’t required. There are actually sneaky ways to get more exercise day-to-day. Here’s my secret sauce.
Read more: How 15 Minutes of Exercise Can Transform Your Health
1. Set a routine
OK, so this isn’t really a secret. Creating a regular habit of working out would be ideal — duh! It’s creating that habit that’s the tricky part. Here’s where I can help.
One of the most efficient ways to build a habit is through the Cue-Routine-Reward system. MIT researchers discovered the power of the neurological loop at the core of every habit. This “habit loop,” later coined by Charles Duhigg in his 2012 book The Power of Habit, consists of three parts: a cue, a routine and a reward.
This system can apply to building any habit, from drinking more water to waking up earlier. But it can certainly apply to creating a workout habit.
For example, say you want to wake up and go to the gym each morning before work. The cue, what triggers the habit, would be the morning and your alarm going off. (Choose a time that works best for you and be consistent. Using multiple cues like time of day and sound can increase your likelihood of performing your routine.)
Your routine, the habit or action you want to create and reinforce, would be getting up and changing into your workout clothes. This can help prevent you from going back to sleep and ensure you hit the gym since you’re already ready. And once you finish the routine (the exercise), you’ll be rewarded. This could appear in the form of endorphins as a bodily reward that can motivate us to do the routine again, or it could even be a tangible reward, like buying yourself new socks after a week of hitting your exercise goals or investing in a new yoga mat after a month of doing yoga each day.
Each person will have a different response to these three elements. It’s important to experiment with what cues and rewards work best for you to develop a consistent routine