A recent survey revealed that the top three New Year’s resolutions that Americans set for 2022 are focusing on financial health, improving health and wellness holistically, and focusing on self-care or body positivity when it comes to their body image.
However, it’s well documented that around only 10% of U.S. adults stick with their resolutions, and nearly half of all resolutions are broken within the first month. That’s why many Americans are taking a different approach to New Year’s resolutions for 2022.
This year, the majority of American adults who set a resolution plan to incorporate small changes into their daily lives throughout the year, set goals that help build healthy habits, and celebrate small victories along the way.
So, if one of your goals for 2022 is to exercise more often, we’ve got you covered with several strategies that will help make it easier to stick with an exercise habit in the New Year.
Elements of Making a Habit Stick
Usually categorized as good or bad, habits are routine behaviors that we carry out almost subconsciously.
The psychology behind habit formation is what allows us to create new healthy habits. It’s also what allows us to break any bad habits that we may have.
A journalist reported that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a “habit loop,” which is a three-part process. The three main components of the habit loop are the cue, the routine, and the reward.
1. The Cue
The cue is what triggers your habitual behavior. Anything around you that reminds you of the habit, or makes you want to put it in action, is the cue.
Since the cue can be pretty much anything at all, you may choose to start laying out your workout clothes next to your bed at the end of each day, or place your sneakers by the front door in the morning in order to serve as a reminder of what you intend to do. Then when you see your workout clothes and/or sneakers, it will trigger you to get your workout session in for that day.
2. The Routine
The routine is the behavior itself. So, for our example, the routine will be your daily exercise session.
3. The Reward
The reward is what the behavior does for you. It’s something that your brain likes that helps it remember the habit loop in the future.
For example, if your daily exercise habit makes you feel better emotionally and physically, that’s your reward. In fact, some of the benefits of regular exercise are increased energy levels, improved sleep quality, and decreased feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.
Studies also suggest that regular exercise can help with weight loss, which was the most common New Year’s resolution set in 2021. Unfortunately, losing weight was also the resolution that was most frequently broken.
7 Strategies That Can Make It Easier To Stick With An Exercise Habit
1. Make Exercise A Daily Habit
The more consistent an action is, the more likely it is to become a habit. So, if you typically workout three to four times per week, consider adding active recovery days to your workout regimen in order to make exercise a daily habit in 2022.
Active recovery between exercise days will help you balance out your week, allowing you to do medium to high-intensity training, as well as low-intensity training for recovery.
For instance, if you typically do strength training exercises four days each week, your weekly workout schedule may look like:
Monday: Strength Training
Tuesday: Strength Training
Wednesday: Active Recovery
Thursday: Strength Training
Friday: Active Recovery
Saturday: Strength Training
Sunday: Active Recovery
On active recovery days, you can perform light cardio exercises using a piece of cardio equipment at the gym like an exercise bike, rowing machine, or an elliptical. You can also do a low-intensity movement session such as yoga.
2. Workout With A Buddy
The people you surround yourself with will have a huge impact on your habits. This is especially true when it comes to fitness. Not only can a workout buddy help hold you accountable, research has shown that a partner’s better fitness habits can inspire you to reach higher levels of conditioning.
One study found that doing aerobic exercise with a partner motivated people to work out harder and longer, compared to people exercising alone. And another study revealed that you don’t even need to go to the gym with your workout buddy to see gains.
The study found that even knowing that you have a virtual workout buddy (in another location) exercising along with you can lead to you lengthening your workout. Plus, some studies have shown that people who spend time with fitness-minded friends tend to be more successful at weight loss.
So, find a workout buddy who is positive and committed to improving his or her health and wellness holistically. Then hit the gym together, or even exercise virtually at the same time in order to create a good exercise habit.
3. Put Some Money On The Line
Are you someone who is motivated by money? If so, use that to your advantage.
Go ahead and sign up for a yearly gym membership, or prepay for workout classes ahead of time in order to make sure that you’ll actually show up for them (instead of hitting the snooze button).
There are also websites out there that enable you to set up a contract to give your money to a charity (or to anyone you’d like) if you don’t live up to your commitments. The reason why this type of strategy works is because people tend to hate to give things up such as their hard earned cash. Apparently people find losses about twice as motivating as gains of equal size, according to researchers.
4. Dress For (Workout) Success
92% of people said they’d be more likely to exercise if they had activewear that they actually liked, according to a survey. 32% of people polled for this survey said that their current workout clothes are a big reason why they skip the gym.
Therefore, it’s important to make sure that you feel good in your activewear. One study even found that 85% of gym-goers said that having cool looking gym clothes gave them more confidence in the gym, while 79% said that feeling like their gym clothes looked cool actually helped them physically perform better, as well.
The study also found that nearly 9 out of every 10 gym-goers agree that simply putting on their gym clothes helps them feel motivated to actually go to the gym when they’re not feeling up to it. So, if you’ve been struggling to work out on a consistent basis, consider treating yourself to some new gym clothes.
After all, having activewear that you feel comfortable and confident wearing might be the difference between you showing up for your workout session or skipping it.
5. Do Workouts That You Actually Enjoy
If working out feels like a chore, of course you’ll want to avoid it. Who wants to do chores? No one! That’s why discovering a physical activity that actually excites you is so important.
To beat gym boredom, try new classes (or sports) in the New Year that allow you to experiment with a bunch of different motions and techniques. Then keep experimenting until you find workouts that you love to do.
6. Focus On Your Daily Exercise Habit First (And The Results Later!)
When setting goals, it’s important to be specific. This way, you have a concrete goal to work towards, and you can track your progress along the way.
That said, while measurable goals are important, an expert on habits, decision making, and continuous improvement believes that you should focus on the habit first and the results later when it comes to making exercise a habit.
The reasoning behind this thought process is that establishing a new normal and building a new routine that you will stick to is what matters most in the beginning, not the results that you get. The belief is that once you become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts, then you can focus on achieving your fitness goals.
It’s also important to be patient with your results since strength and performance results can fluctuate over time. For instance, you may be able to achieve some results pretty quickly early on, but then it may take you longer to accomplish some of your other fitness goals. The key is to stick with it and not give up.
7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Miss A Workout Session (Or Two)
While you should do everything in your power to stay on track when it comes to your new daily exercise habit, it’s okay to give yourself a pass sometimes. Stuff happens. Additional work might come across your desk late in the day, you may wake up one morning and not feel like working out, or you might just completely flake on an exercise session. That’s perfectly normal and completely fine – as long as you don’t make a habit of it.
Over to You
By embracing gradual changes, celebrating small successes, and focusing on habits, Americans are redefining their approach. Strategies like creating habit loops through cues, incorporating daily exercise, and choosing enjoyable workouts form the foundation of lasting change.
Partnerships, financial incentives, and confidence-boosting activewear contribute to sustained motivation. The key lies in prioritizing consistent routines over immediate results, building a new normal of exercise. The journey toward healthier habits is an evolving process that thrives on patience, resilience, and self-compassion.
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