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How to Keep up with Exercise (and How to Stick to It)

Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN

So, you may have already established everything you need to do to lose weight. Perhaps your weight loss program is well planned out and all you have to do is execute it. You most likely have been told to modify your diet for weight loss and follow your exercise plan.

However, if you’re like most people who have a structured weight loss program plan, creating the program outline is perhaps the easiest part! While many people spend time, effort and money into “setting up” the program (i.e. getting a gym membership, printing out diet instructions), many people fall short when it comes time to actually “doing” the program.

Time to Get Started with Weight Loss

In this article, we will give you several tips on how to stick with your exercise plan. Because, while having a good plan is great, you have to actually act on the plan in order to see weight loss results. Take a look at the tips below. Some of them may work for you, whereas others may not, but it’s time to get the ball rolling and think about how you will actually stick to your weight loss exercise routine.

How to Create an Exercise Habit

Most people are looking for long term weight loss, in that, once they lose the weight, they want to keep it off for the rest of their lives. Does that sound like you? The key to long-term weight loss is to develop healthy habits that you can do for the rest of your life.

Does that sound a little intimidating? While committing to a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life may seem daunting, there are many things you can do to create small, healthy habits that can eventually become second nature. At some point, when something becomes second nature, it requires little to no additional effort!

Exercise Habit #1: Start small (really small).

One huge mistake that many people make is that they make drastic lifestyle changes very quickly. While you may think that you should just dive into a healthy weight loss lifestyle, you’re often setting yourself up for failure.

Why? Making several changes at once (i.e. complete diet overhaul, working out excessively) quickly leads to burnout. When we get burned out, we often give up and relapse into old habits, falling back to “square one.” Take this advice: Start really small. Starting small allows you to try, adopt and make that small change second nature to your routine.

For example, if you have never exercised before, then make a goal for yourself to exercise 2 times for 30 minutes every week. Do this for several weeks. Once you have met your workout goal for 8 weeks in a row, then increase your exercise routine to 3 times per week every single week.

Exercise Habit #2: Focus on exercise habits, rather than the weight loss.

You may be thinking, “But I just want to lose weight!” Even though weight loss is the ultimate goal, building weight loss exercise habits will help you lose weight in the future (and for the rest of your life). When we base our success on the pounds lost alone, we may be discouraged and give up completely if we don’t see the pounds drop when we want.

The truth is, people tend to give up before they’ve ever fully adopted a healthy habit. Then, they stop doing the healthy habit and still haven’t lost weight. Bummer! To create a healthy weight loss routine, instead of checking-off the number of pounds you’ve lost, check-off the number of workouts you have completed in 2 months.

Exercise Habit #3: Trick your brain into wanting to exercise.

Say what?! You can trick your brain into wanting to exercise? When exercise is a chore, we tend to make excuses and push it off to do something else (oftentimes for something we actually want to do). There are many things you can do while exercising to make it more fun. However, for a better chance at success, force yourself to only do that fun activity while you are exercising.

For example, many people like to watch certain TV shows or listen to their favorite podcast. These things may be fun for you and can make your day better, so you really can’t live without them. Since watching or listening to these shows is a priority in your life, do them with an exercise component. Set a guideline for yourself to only watch The Walking Dead if you are on the elliptical at the gym. Tell yourself that you will only listen to Dr. Phil’s podcasts if you are walking around the block. Use those huge wants as bait to exercise!

Exercise Habit #4: Look for other ways to burn calories (outside of the gym).

Another main component of sticking to a weight loss exercise routine is to keep the activities fresh. Outside of the gym, you can burn calories doing a fun fitness class, doing active recreational activities or while doing household chores that need to get done.

Here are several ideas to burn calories outside of a gym. For more specific information about physical activity, check out our physical activity article here.

  • Turn on some music and dance while cleaning the house.
  • Walk or run with your dog.
  • Play at the playground with your kids or grandchildren.
  • Take the stairs – always!
  • When possible, walk or bike to your destination.
  • Do cardio at home while watching TV (then do strength training exercises during the commercial breaks).
  • Walk on your lunch break at work.
  • Convert your work desk into a standing desk (or get an under-the-desk elliptical).
  • Join walking groups.
  • Take water aerobics, swim classes or just go swimming!

Moving Forward with Exercise

Above all, a personalized workout and activity plan will be the most sustainable for you. Remember that adopting a healthy, active lifestyle takes lots of time and effort, however, you owe it to yourself to take care of your health!