Living a Healthier Lifestyle: The Science Behind Making Exercise a Habit

After last week’s pretty blunt blog ( about how incredibly difficult it can be to make fitness a part of your daily routine, this week we are going to talk about what steps are necessary in order to make exercise a habit.

In the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, incorporating exercise into your daily routine can be a transformative endeavor. Yet, for many, the challenge lies not in the workout itself, but in making exercise a consistent habit. Fortunately, understanding the science behind habit formation can provide valuable insights into how to overcome obstacles and pave the way towards a more active lifestyle.

Understanding Habit Formation:

The journey towards making exercise a habit and living a healthier lifestyle begins with understanding the psychology behind habit formation. According to research, habits are formed through a process called “habit loop,” consisting of three stages: cue, routine, and reward.

  1. Cue: This is the trigger that prompts your brain to initiate a specific behavior. It could be a time of day, a particular location, or an emotional state.
  2. Routine: The routine is the behavior itself, such as going for a run or hitting the gym.
  3. Reward: Rewards are the positive outcomes associated with completing the routine, which reinforce the habit loop and increase the likelihood of repetition.

For Example:

Cue: Every morning, Sarah’s alarm rings at 6:00 AM, signaling the start of her day. The sound of her alarm serves as the cue that prompts her brain to initiate her exercise routine. It is time to get moving.

Routine: Upon hearing the alarm, Sarah groggily gets out of bed, changes into her workout clothes, smashes a banana, a cup of coffee and heads to Zone for a sweaty start to her day. This routine of morning exercise is her chosen behavior to incorporate physical activity into her daily life.

Reward: As Sarah completes her workout, she experiences a sense of accomplishment and invigoration. Getting her heart beating and having her endorphins release during exercise leave her feeling energized and ready to tackle the day ahead. Additionally, Sarah rewards herself with a guilty pleasure podcast on the way home after her workout something she only rewards herself with on the drive home from Zone 105.

How Long Does it Take to Form a Habit?

Contrary to popular belief, the notion that it takes 21 days to form a habit is a myth. Research suggests that the time required to establish a habit varies depending on factors such as complexity, frequency, and individual differences. On average, it may take anywhere from 21 to 66 days for a behavior to become automatic, with some habits taking even longer to solidify. Living a healthier lifestyle won’t happen overnight but no great habits will.

Overcoming Obstacles:

While the journey towards habit formation is different for everyone, several common obstacles may hinder progress:

  1. Lack of Motivation: Sustaining motivation can be challenging, especially when faced with obstacles such as fatigue or stress. To overcome this, focus on setting realistic goals, finding activities you enjoy, and seeking support from friends or a fitness community. Motivation will get you started but routine will keep you going.
  2. Time Constraints: Busy schedules can make it difficult to prioritize exercise. Combat this obstacle by scheduling workouts ahead of time, breaking sessions into shorter increments, or integrating physical activity into daily routines. Repetition will allow you to live a healthier lifestyle. Even if your workout is only 20 minutes you are helping create that habit by doing so.
  3. Negative Self-Talk: Internal dialogue can significantly impact behavior. Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about exercise by cultivating a positive mindset, practicing self-compassion, and celebrating small victories along the way.
  4. Lack of Consistency: Consistency is key to habit formation. Create a structured routine, establish accountability measures, and never miss two days in a row. If a day isn’t going your way and you miss your workout that’s fine! But you need to make sure you get your butt back in there the next day.

When Does Exercise Become a Natural Habit?

As you consistently engage in exercise, you’ll gradually transition from conscious effort to automatic behavior. Signs that exercise has become a natural habit include:

  1. Routine Integration: Exercise seamlessly integrates into your daily life without requiring extensive planning or willpower.
  2. Intrinsic Motivation: You find joy and satisfaction in the act of exercising itself, rather than solely focusing on external rewards or outcomes.
  3. Consistency: Regular exercise becomes a non-negotiable part of your routine, and skipping workouts feels unnatural or disruptive.
  4. Positive Associations: You associate exercise with feelings of well-being, energy, and accomplishment, reinforcing the habit loop and increasing adherence over time.

In conclusion, making exercise a habit involves understanding the science of habit formation, overcoming obstacles, and fostering consistency through gradual progression. By applying these principles and cultivating a supportive environment, you can embark on a transformative journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

By Brett Kirkland


We certainly do! You can either purchase programs or book personal training sessions and be given your workout at the end of the session.