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Sharp Health News

4 tricks to make resolutions stick

Dec. 30, 2019

4 tricks to make resolutions stick
Two of the most common New Year’s resolutions are to get in shape and to exercise regularly. Despite our best intentions, most resolutions fall by the wayside by Valentine’s Day. Why is that?

According to Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare, building new habits and changing your behavior is not easy. This is especially true when it comes to exercising.

“Exercising isn’t easy; it’s sweaty, it’s uncomfortable and we don’t see results quick enough,” Hays explains. “And even though we know there are many benefits to exercise, such as improving health and helping with weight management, we often have a hard time sticking with a workout routine.”

Hays suggests the following four tips to help you stick to a longer-lasting exercise habit.

  1. Anchoring or chaining
    Many habits are cued by other activities in our life. For example, after waking up (cue), we brush our teeth (habit). To create an exercise habit, you need to choose a specific cue that triggers your brain to think, “It’s time to exercise.” The best cues are existing events that you know will happen without fail at the same time and place each day, such as “When I finish lunch, I will take a walk.”

  2. Temptation bundling
    Temptation bundling is a psychological trick that combines “should” behaviors that require willpower, such as walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes, with instantly gratifying “want” activities, as in watching a favorite TV show. Studies show that people are more likely to find an unwanted action, such as exercising, more enjoyable if they get to enjoy one of their guilty pleasures at the same time.

    Here are a few examples of temptation bundling for exercising:
    • Only listen to audiobooks or podcasts you love while taking a walk.
    • Only watch reality TV while on a stationary bike.
    • Only read your favorite gossip magazine while on an elliptical.
  3. Two-minute motivation
    Exercising requires motivation. However, contrary to popular belief, motivation is often a result of action, not the cause of it. This means that sometimes a way to being motivated to exercise is simply to start.

    To help you get over the “I just don’t want to” vibe and get started, use a two-minute rule. Whenever you don’t feel like working out, just decide you will exercise for two minutes. Most of the time, once you start, it is easier to continue and eventually two minutes will become 15, then 30 minutes and before you know it, you have a full-hour workout.

  4. Socialization
    Humans are social creatures. We take cues from others around us about what we should be doing. Here are some ways to make your exercise routine social:
    • Befriend someone who enjoys working out regularly and commit to working out together a few times a week.
    • Make your exercise plans public. People who post about their intentions to go to the gym on social media are more likely to do it.
    • Start a friendly workout or step competition with someone. a social network and competitive atmosphere encourages people to work out more.
“Relying on motivation and willpower alone is not enough to turn you into a gym regular,” says Hays. “By using the tips above to create a fitness habit, you are creating a new neural pathway in your brain. Once the habit is formed, your exercise behavior will become automatic and you will finally be able to make your New Year's resolutions stick.”

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