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How to develop an exercise routine you will stick to

Updated on September 7, 2016

When you’re making any serious effort to lose weight, have more energy and live a healthier lifestyle, you need to exercise. Easily said – but many of us (myself included) often struggle to find the time and motivation to get active.
Seven years ago, when I was in the sixth form, I did almost no exercise. I cycled for about twenty minutes each day, and did a bit of walking around school. Yet today, I’m writing this with the post-exercise glow from a high-impact aerobics class. I’ve gone from being someone who couldn’t imagine herself in a gym to someone who gets “stir crazy” without enough exercise. Here’s my top three steps to establishing an exercise routine that you’ll stick to.

Step 1: Integrate Exercise Into Your Day

I can’t emphasise the importance of this enough: you need to find a way to easily fit exercising into your day. If you try a thrice-weekly gym routine which takes up your whole evening after an exhausting day at work, you’ll give up within a couple of weeks. And if you have to pay a childminder to take care of your kids while you go for a jog, it’s just another barrier in the way of your quest to get active.
Find a way to integrate exercise into your day – even if this means you can’t exercise for so long or at such a high intensity as you’d like. A moderate, regular effort is far better than one week of frantic activity followed by nothing.
Some easy ways to squeeze exercise around the rest of life:

  • Walk or cycle to work, or walk your kids to school instead of driving
  • Shop locally, instead of driving or taking the bus to the supermarket
  • Take the kids to the park after school – but don’t just sit and watch – join in!
  • Plan active weekends with your partner or family
  • Get your friends involved in active social events: how about a girls’ night out at the pool instead of at a club or bar?


Step 2: Set An Easy Minimum Target

Many of us fall into the trap of setting overly ambitious targets ... and giving up when we realise it’s almost impossible to meet them. Instead, give yourself an easily-attainable minimum target. This might be something like:

  • Going for a 20 minute walk each lunch time
  • Doing 30 minutes of exercise (in total, not necessarily all at once) each day
  • Cycling to work three times a week

If your target is modest enough, you won’t have any excuses for not reaching it! However busy you are, you can fit in a couple of 15 minute walks every day – but if you plan to go for a two-hour gym session, you just know it’ll get dumped from your schedule as soon as life gets busy.
Remember that these are minimum targets, though – you can always go on and do more!

Step 3: Involve Other People

One cunning way to force yourself into sticking to an exercise regime is to get other people involved. We’re all very good at letting ourselves down – but most of us find it really tough to break a commitment to a friend. Promise your best mate that you’ll join her for an aerobics class weekly, and chances are, both of you will end up much more motivated to go.
Sources of potential exercise buddies include:

  • Colleagues at work (go for a walk together at lunch-time, or head to the gym post-work)
  • Friends who are also trying to lose weight, get fit, or become healthier
  • Your partner – find some activities which you can enjoy together. How about a long romantic walk?
  • A relative – don’t rule out your mum, dad or sister. Sometimes, when one family member starts making healthy changes, others want to follow suit!

If you can’t find a buddy to exercise with, I’d suggest going along to a weekly gym class. You’ll soon get to know some of the regulars – and you know you’ll be missed if you don’t show up.
Are you building the exercise habit, or are you already super-active? What tips do you have for creating an exercise regime that’s easy to stick to?

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