Some people define “routine” as “doing the same thing all the time.” Sounds boring, right? But when you’re trying to make a positive lifestyle change like exercising more, “routine” becomes more about “making good actions a habit.” And when those habits become part of your everyday life, you will see exciting changes.
A recent study by the National Center for Health Strategies found that about 63% of the population (the same percentage as that of Americans who are overweight) believes that exercising would make them healthier and fitter—but they don’t do it. Routines are key to getting you into the habit of making the choices you want to make.
Planning makes it a priority
It’s far too easy to skip out on exercise if you don’t make time for it—but creating an exercise routine lets you schedule it into your day. When you plan to exercise at a specific time on specific days, you have one less decision to make. Now, your workout plans can be more about your activities: Should I walk in the neighborhood, or go to the gym and do ab workouts and back exercises? Or maybe I will try a yoga class or water aerobics?
An exercise routine helps you maintain momentum
Research shows that when you skip a workout, there’s a 62% chance you’ll not schedule an exercise session the following week. But routines help you to keep yourself on track, because they make exercise something you expect to do. When it’s on the schedule, it’s harder to skip or miss. And when you can keep the dates on your calendar, maintaining momentum is easier, as is tracking towards your goals.
Plus, a healthy exercise routine of 20-30 minutes per day gives you a sense of purpose and a mood boost as well. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals called endorphins that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
An exercise routine lets you mesh your schedule with others
You may be in a relationship, work or family situation where your choices and schedule have to coexist with the needs and demands of others. The best way to ensure your workout routine stays on the calendar is to put it there—and make sure it’s at a time that won’t get scheduled over.
Many people try to knock out their exercise early in the day, before work and family needs take over. If you find that exercising is best for you in the middle of the day and know you can carve out time during your lunch break, try making that time your “exercise break.” Even a “walk break” from work counts.
Scientists say willpower is highest in the morning. They also say that the longer the day goes on, the more fatigue your self-control experiences. For those reasons, try not to schedule your exercise too late in the evening when tiredness can overwhelm you and shake your resolve.
Weekends can work just as well
Creating a consistent weekday routine doesn’t have to mean that weekends are your days off. Instead of trying to carry your weekday routine over, why not create a separate, special routine for weekends?
Some of us may have more time available on the weekends to set aside for exercise—and if you do, it’s a good opportunity to do something outside your norm? Depending on the time you have available, you can try something more involved like running a 5k for charity, taking a bike ride at Umstead Park or hiking at the Eno instead of your usual jog or walk around the neighborhood. Gardening for an hour on Saturday mornings also counts!
What’s important is that you build up good habits that don’t end every Friday.
An exercise routine gives you a sense of control and choice
Life is hard enough, and daily health stresses can seem almost overwhelming at times. An exercise routine gives you a sense of control over your life—which is key when you’re making important changes to improve and ensure your physical health.
These exercise routines can also be your coping card when high-stress situations come your way. For example, if you know you’re entering a week or two of long, stressful work hours, add a little extra time to your exercise routine—rather than letting it be the thing that falls by the wayside. Even taking a 15-minute walk around your office neighborhood will have you back at your desk feeling more refreshed—and if you’re working late, those extra 10-15 minutes won’t be missed and you will likely be more productive.
You’ll have a bit more energy, and you’ll have possibly even resisted the temptation to walk into the kitchen or towards the vending machine for a salty or sugary snack.
Routines help you keep track of your goals
The next step after establishing a workout routine is to begin keeping an exercise journal. Write everything down—including how you feel—so you can compare yourself to previous workouts. Maybe you can walk/jog farther, lift the same amount of weight more easily, or even finish the same workout routine faster.
Over time, you’ll see yourself getting stronger and fitter every week—not only in the mirror or on the scale or in your medical results, but also in your emotional state and sense of overall health and wellbeing. It really works!
- Beth Israel Medical Center Weight Loss & Well-being publication.
- Researchers at the University of Nottingham and the National Institute of Education in Singapore reviewed 83 studies on self-control to come to the following conclusion: “Results revealed a significant effect of ego depletion on self-control task performance. Significant effect sizes were found for ego depletion on effort, perceived difficulty, negative affect, subjective fatigue, and blood glucose levels. The longer the day goes on, the more fatigue self-control experiences.”