We all know the habits we wish we didn’t have: Over-snacking, overspending, oversharing. We want to stop doing all those things we’re overdoing. But studies show it may be easier to make a healthy new habit than to break a bad one. If that’s true, then one of the easiest new habits you can make—if you haven’t already—is the habit of moving more.
Experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Vigorous activity may be even more beneficial. But the key is to get it done and make it part of your routine. Here are three easy ways to make sure moving happens:
Have a Ritual
Habits can be built most easily from the little rituals that we keep doing over and over. A ritual is like a habit—the biggest difference being that you can keep to a ritual before you’ve really formed the habit. One effective method: Make exercise only part of the ritual—not the whole ritual. Maybe your ritual is something like this: You get up at six. Put on your workout clothes. Start a pot of coffee. Let the dog out and start running. After you’re done running, you let the dog back in. Then you sit and have another cup of coffee, shower, and get ready for work.
Only a few parts of this ritual have to do with exercise. The rest are things that may be easier to do when you’re just waking up in the morning, like putting on some workout clothes, or making a pot of coffee. When you associate the running with these other parts of the ritual, the running is more likely to get done. It also may help if there’s a small reward after, like drinking the coffee you made earlier.
When you’re first forming an exercise habit, it helps to set very reasonable, even somewhat small expectations for each time you go out. If you set out to run three miles a day every single day, your odds of falling short at least some of the time are great. If you say you’ll run a mile at least four days a week, you’ll likely be more successful—and you’ll have four miles a week under your belt to build on.
Focus on the Habit, Not Results
A lot of us begin positive new habits with some other goal in mind—like losing weight or running a 5K. These may be goals worth achieving, but moving more is a positive step in its own right. As long as you’re making a good new habit, it doesn’t matter whether you’re immediately dropping pounds or getting in major miles.
Instead of focusing on results, focus on how moving more makes you feel. Do you have more energy in the morning? Do you notice that your breathing is clearer? Are old aches and pains clearing up? Focus on the positive impacts you notice from moment to moment—and trust that your larger goal will come in time.
If these tips don’t work and you fall out of the habit for a while? Don’t give up. The journey to a good long-term habit is often not a smooth or straight one. You can always start over with fresh determination. After all, how you get there is not important. Getting there is what counts.