The Biggest Reason We Don’t Stay on a Regular Exercise Habit
By Leo Babauta
There are so many benefits to exercise, from cancer prevention to brain health, from heart health to better weight management, from stronger bones to less stress and more happiness … so why is it so hard for most people to stick to a regular exercise habit?
It turns out that there’s really only one reason.
You might say you’re too busy, but if you spend any time on social media like Facebook, news sites, blogs, Netflix or Youtube … you have the time. You’re just choosing to do other things.
You might say you’re too tired, and that might be true … but actually, exercise results in having more energy over time, so the truth is that we’re prioritizing the short term over the long term when we skip exercise.
And this is the crux of the problem: we are making a choice to do other things over exercise.
It’s a choice, not a problem of time or energy.
Why are we making this choice to not exercise? If we dig down a bit deeper, it comes down to a belief that underlies the choice.
I’m going to steal from the Clean Slate blog, which talks about the myth of addiction being a disease … and says that instead, drug or alcohol use is a choice that comes down to one thing:
People freely choose to use drugs and alcohol because, at the time they’re doing it, they believe it will make them happy. At the time they do it, they believe it is their best available option for attaining happiness.
And in my experience, this is true. We have beliefs that power our choices, even if we don’t always know what those beliefs are.
What are your beliefs about exercise that are driving your habits? Here are some examples:
- You believe that exercise is hard, and going online is easier and more fun.
- You believe that if you’re tired, procrastinating or resting will make you happier than if you get off your butt and exercise.
- You believe that If you’re busy, you’ll be happier if you put off exercise.
You might not actually say any of these out loud, or even admit them to yourself. But your heart believes them (or something similar), and you act on these beliefs.
When it comes down to it, you’ve been making choices based on these beliefs. And that’s what’s stopping you from sticking to a regular exercise habit.
The Good News
Here’s the good news: beliefs are malleable. They can be changed, by your mind. And by backing up your changed beliefs with action.
We hold strongly to our beliefs, but they aren’t set in stone. They are carved in clay.
Here are some beliefs you can try on instead, like a new costume:
- I’m happier when I am outdoors and moving.
- I’m happier when I exercise every day.
- I feel stronger, more powerful, more empowered, more energized, when I exercise regularly.
- I feel better about myself when I exercise.
- I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with a good workout.
- My health matters to me more than going online or watching things.
Say them to yourself. Write them down. Put them into action, and focus on the parts of the action that reinforce them.
In the end, it takes a little time to create new beliefs, but what you’re really doing is creating a new you. Tossing out your old beliefs and carving out new ones is worth the life you’ll be creating. (Try my Get Fit for Summer Challenge.)
My Get Active & Fit Course
If you’d like support for creating a new fitness habit, join my Sea Change Program … I’ve just started a 6-week video course called Get Active & Fit, where I’ll be doing video lessons and a live video webinar on creating a consistent fitness habit (or taking your current habit to the next level).
It’s $10/month, with a free 7-day trial.
We’ll be doing this challenge together, discussing the fitness habit supporting each other on the Sea Change forum, and doing small daily challenges to help people learn to be fit for life. Join Sea Change here to be a part of this program.