Exercise doesn’t have to only come in the form of a planned workout. It’s a great idea to build it into your everyday life in the form of family fun. But setting aside some time for a workout every day is also important. Having a fitness habit is the best way to reach fitness goals, but creating that habit is sometimes tough. That’s why it’s important to be intentional about making a habit.
8 Ways to Make Fitness a Habit
The hardest part of trying to be more active is finding a way to make it a daily habit. This is an area I’ve been working on for years, and I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere!
Here are my best tips for getting into the exercise groove (even as a million things seem to conspire against you)…
Make It a Priority
We all know the many benefits of exercise from better sleep to increased energy, but sometimes excuses get in the way of sticking with a fitness routine. Not just silly excuses like not being able to find a favorite sports bra, but legitimate ones. We have real struggles every day, like little ones who need to be fed and washed, dishes and laundry that pile up, and jobs or businesses that need attention. All of these are important and can easily push exercise off the list.
But exercise is just as important as these other things. So, making exercise a priority every day is key to ensuring it will actually happen. A bonus is that setting aside some time each day for a fitness routine means you get all of these benefits:
- Exercise (can help you reach health goals)
- Time to yourself
- A lesson for your kids that self-care is a priority
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
According to a Harvard Health article, regular exercise also improves memory and thinking skills.
When creating your daily or weekly schedule, make sure you schedule in exercise so you will have no excuse not to follow through.
Create a Routine
When we create a routine for our day (including time for exercise) we have more control over our time. They say that it only takes 21 days to form a habit, but getting through those 21 days is much easier when you start with a routine!
Some experts recommend exercising in the morning. Getting your workout out of the way first things means there’s less of a chance of something getting in the way. Also, starting the day with a cardio boost can help keep the metabolism burning all day (and may help you avoid unhealthy habits like eating sugar for breakfast and crashing).
But ultimately the best time of day for a workout is the time of day that will work best for you. Early mornings before the kids wake up work well for some people while lunchtime or after dinner might work better for others. Some people have more energy later in the day so they should capitalize on that!
Sometimes it works best to pair exercise with another habit you’re already doing. Learn more about how I use habit stacking for health.
Additionally, you may have to make fitness choices based on weather or climate. The key is to find a time that works for you and your schedule so you can stick to your fitness goals.
Important caveat: As women, doing the same thing at the same time every day may not be the best for us. Female hormone expert Alisa Vitti recommends creating your routines around your cycle. This concept has helped me tremendously… see this podcast to find out how it works.
Choose Something You Are Excited About
If you want to make fitness a habit you have to love what you’re doing. No one wants to do things they dislike!
Trying to make an exercise activity you hate into a habit is an uphill battle. Instead, explore different possibilities for physical activity. The gym is not right for everyone but walking, swimming, hiking, running, dance, Zumba, or rebounding may be right up your alley.
There are many ways to get a workout outside of the gym (and even in your own home).
- One of my favorites is Tabata exercise because it doesn’t take much time and burns serious calories.
- I currently use the Hunter Fitness program as a part of my fitness and flexibility routine.
- I’ve always loved kettlebells (the one pictured above is one of several fun kettlebell options from Onnit).
- This AI-assisted home bike has been a game-changer. It’s an investment, but so are years of gym membership fees!
- Consider exercising as a family. We started pole vaulting lessons together recently and the kids love seeing Mom and Dad do something adventurous!
The point is, frequently changing up our exercise outlets brings back that sense of fun and play that keeps us engaged in an active lifestyle as a family.
Vary Your Exercise
Finding something you love to do is important, as I mentioned above, but finding more than one activity is even better. Different activities use different muscles in the body and are different levels of cardio, so it’s a good idea to have a few kinds of exercise that you rotate through. This can help keep you from getting bored with one activity as well.
I like to have something for every occasion. That means I have an indoor floor exercise routine that I can do anytime at home. I also have an outdoor activity (walking or hiking), and I have something I do with friends or family — a backyard game, volleyball, or currently, pole vaulting!
Just Do It
One of the hardest parts of starting a new fitness routine is getting started each day. A simple way to get yourself to exercise more often is to make a rule that you must start your chosen exercise but you don’t have to finish it. Tell yourself that if you want to quit after 5 minutes you can.
This works because the hardest part is usually getting started and once you get going you no longer feel resistance to exercising. Often you remember how good it feels and you’ll want to keep going!
Create Rules Around Skipping Days
One of the best ways I’ve found to make fitness a habit is to create a rule that I can’t skip more than one day in a row. This helps me to exercise more often because I have to carefully plan my skip days. For example, if I have a wedding one day and don’t think I’ll have time to exercise, I’m sure to get a workout in the day before and plan for a workout the day after.
Make It Easy to Stick With It
When we add something new to our lives, it can be tough to adjust. It may be a struggle at first to get yourself to follow your fitness plan, but eventually, it will become a habit that you can’t live without.
However, there are some things you can do to make it as easy as possible to stick with your fitness routine, reducing the chance you’ll fall off the wagon. Reduce as many barriers to working out as possible:
- Make sure your workout clothes are clean
- Bring workout clothes with you to work if you plan on going to the gym afterward (instead of needing to stop home first)
- Plan a hike with friends so it’s more difficult to back out
- Sign up for a pilates class in a building as close to home (or work) as possible
Another important barrier to deal with is young kids. Find a way to include the kids in at least one physical activity so that you never have an excuse not to exercise. Walking is great when you have stroller-aged kiddos (or older ones who like to walk) while a hike could work if you have just one little one and a backpack-style baby carrier. For school-aged kids, a game of tag or soccer can work.
Create the Right Goals
Remember that increasing your level of exercise is ultimately about better health (though a healthy weight probably plays into that). Instead of measuring results, like stepping on the scale every day, focus on your effort. If you make sure you’re doing your best to take care of yourself every day, many other goals will just fall into place.
These health apps have helped me to set realistic goals and stay motivated by tracking tangible results.
Creating a Fitness Habit
As busy moms, we have lots of legitimate excuses for why we can’t fit exercise into our day. But the reality is that because we are busy, exercise becomes even more important as a way to reduce stress and gain more energy. These tips have helped me make exercise a normal part of my day and I know they can help you too!
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
How do you make fitness a habit?