If you've started a program to get more active but are having trouble keeping it going, it may help to figure out what's getting in your way. Then you can decide how to get back on track.
Illness, travel, work, and just having a bad day are a few of the things that may keep you from staying on track. Your goal is to get back in the habit and find a way to make physical activity a routine part of your life.
Here's how to make being active a habit.
- Remember your reasons for being active.
- Are you exercising to stay healthy?
- Do you like how exercise makes you feel?
- Do you enjoy being active as a way to spend time with family and friends?
- Do you think being more active will help you with your weight goals?
- Update your goals.
When you first started increasing your activity, you probably had one or more big goals in mind.
- Are those goals the same today, or do you need to change them? Are you having trouble meeting those goals? You may need to come up with new long-term or short-term goals.
- Did you take on too much too fast? Remember to make your short-term goals small steps. For example, if you want to build up to walking 30 minutes every day, start by walking just 10 minutes a day on a few days each week. After a week, add 1 or 2 minutes every day, or add another day to your schedule.
- Did you meet your long-term goal and then stop? Good for you for meeting your goal! Now it's time to set a new long-term goal to help you stay active. Even people who have been active for years set new goals to help themselves stay motivated.
- Get past your slip-ups and anything that's getting in your way.
When you slip up, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Figure out what happened. Then come up with some ways to get back on track. For example:
- If you feel that you don't have time to exercise, maybe you could talk with other people who are active and busy about how they fit in physical activity.
- If weather gets in your way, you might try a variety of indoor activities.
- If you're bored with your routine, you could watch a movie while you exercise at home. Listen to a podcast while you go for a walk or a run. Take a dance or yoga class.
- Get support.
Support from family and friends can go a long way toward helping you find success in being more active. Don't be afraid to let them know what you're trying to do—and ask for their help.
- Keep at it.
Remember that you can't create a habit overnight. Keep at it, even if you slip up along the way. It can take at least 3 months of repetition to form a habit. So every day that you follow your plan to be more active, you take a step in the right direction.
If you're having trouble staying active, you may find it helpful to look closer at what's holding you back. Then you can decide how to work around those barriers.
Perhaps the biggest thing that holds people back is the fear of failure. The most helpful approach to this fear is to carefully define "success" and "failure" using realistic goals. If your goal is simply to become more active than you are now, it will be hard to fail.
Here are some ideas for dealing with common barriers.
- "It seems like I never have time."
- If you don't have time for your usual half-hour walk, have a backup plan to take two 15-minute walks or three 10-minute walks during the day.
- When you don't have time to go to the gym, have a backup plan to exercise at home or at work instead.
- Think of ways to manage your time better. Ask your family for help with fitting in some time for exercise.
- Tell yourself that you are the type of person who makes time for your own health, including physical activity.
- Look at other people who are active and are about as busy as you. Talk with them about how they fit in physical activity.
- Use a phone app or pedometer to remind you to be more active as you go about your daily routine.
- "It's often too hot, too cold, too windy, or too wet for outdoor activities."
- Try a variety of indoor and outdoor activities so that you're ready when the weather turns bad.
- Have a backup plan to exercise indoors with home equipment or videos. Or walk inside a shopping mall or at a gym.
- Take a class like aerobics or yoga at a gym or community center. They're usually held indoors.
- "Going to the gym costs too much."
- Walking is an activity that most people can do without spending money.
- Exercise at home with inexpensive items such as a jump rope, elastic tubing, or a yoga mat. You can use items you already have, such as milk jugs filled with water as weights for arm exercises.
- Take an exercise class at a community center. These classes usually don't cost much.
- "I'm too tired most of the time."
- Try to get more rest.
- When you don't have the energy for a half-hour walk, spread three shorter 10-minute walks throughout your day. You'll soon regain the energy to walk longer.
- Maybe stress is making you tired. Think of ways to take stress out of your life. And remember that regular physical activity is one of the best ways to relieve stress.
- "It's too boring."
- Make your exercise routine more interesting by adding some entertainment. Watch a movie while you exercise at home. Or listen to a podcast while you go for a walk or a run.
- Exercise with a partner. Play outdoor games with your family. Walk the dog.
- Try something new—maybe a dance class, an exercise class, or gardening.
Current as of: October 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health