Break the habit of zero exercise

AAre you one of the many people who struggle to find the time and energy to break the habit of zero exercise? If so, you are not alone! Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, but motivating yourself to move can be tough. Many find the idea of ​​a regular exercise habit appealing but also challenging and even daunting.

A busy schedule or poor health can be significant hurdles, but for most, the biggest obstacle is actually the mindset. They lack self-confidence, motivation or discipline. But whatever your age or fitness level, even if you have never worked out a day in your life, you can take steps to not only exercise and establish a habit of exercise, but make it an instinctive and enjoyable part of your life. And that’s not to mention the physical, mental and social benefits that improved health will bring.

As a personal trainer and nutritionist with 20 years of experience, I have worked with numerous individuals who have faced unique challenges in their fitness journeys. The reasons range from a lack of interest in exercising to deeper issues like low self-esteem, fear of failure, or time constraints. Regardless of the reason, the common denominator in these cases, and probably in your case, is the mind. It’s often a mental struggle, rather than a physical one, that keeps you from getting started.

Weight issues are a common struggle for many people, often rooted in poor diet and inactivity. I remember working with two clients who were advised to lose more than 100 pounds to maintain good health. To help them identify the obstacles, I asked the following questions:

  1. What’s your goal? How important is it to you?
  2. Will you persist to the end of this lifestyle journey?

With goals in mind, both participated in circuit-based exercise tailored to their fitness levels and consumed a nutrient-dense whole foods diet. They both lost about 150 pounds.

Stacking of habits

Fitness is a mind game that requires a tough attitude and a resilient mindset. However, to achieve lasting success, a competent approach is required. I use a technique called habit stacking. With this approach, you’re relying not only on willpower, but also on the benefits of stacking your new exercise habit on top of an existing habit.

To illustrate, you might have a strong habit of brushing your teeth before bed every night or turning on the coffee maker when you wake up in the morning. James Clear, author of atomic habits, explain that you can use one of these ingrained habits to your advantage as a foundation for a new, healthy behavior.

Some examples could be:

  • While I’m making my morning coffee, I’ll go for a light jog in place.
  • While the oatmeal is cooking, I’ll do 10 sets of bench push-ups.
  • Before the morning shower heats up, I’ll do five high knees.
  • Before lunch, I will do 25 bodyweight squats.

While they might seem trivial at first, they help you break through the mental barrier. Consistency is key to making progress, and these micro-workouts often lead to better results than infrequent visits to the gym. Incorporating enough of them into your daily routine can add a surprising amount of extra physical activity.

Here are other ways to stack a good habit on top of an existing habit:

  • After taking off your work boots, put on your workout clothes and hit the gym.
  • After dinner, go for a 15-minute treadmill run, then a 30-minute strength workout at home.

Five examples of fitness

With the powerful tool of habit building at your service, you can now approach your situation with greater confidence and with the knowledge that, step by step, you can not only exercise but build a consistent exercise habit. Below are five common zero exercise scenarios: Which one is closest to your situation? The good news is that each of these can be changed, step by step, day by day, habit by habit, microexercise by microexercise.

The time-strapped desk jockey: Are you willing and healthy, but not familiar with exercise? Try a cardio, low impact, and strength training circuit training routine. Choose exercises that are gentle on your joints, such as push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, glute bridges, Russian twists, leg raises, high knees, step-ups, and pistol thrusts. Select, for example, three such exercises. Perform the first exercise for a specific number of repetitions (for example, 20 repetitions), then, without resting, immediately move on to the second exercise, then the third. Repeat these three exercises three times, then do three different exercises. Do this for 30-45 minutes. Since you don’t stop for breaks, your heart rate will likely rise rapidly and stay elevated, making circuit training an excellent cardio-strength challenge that you can complete, including changing and showering, in about an hour .

The tenant of the apartment: Perhaps you feel that lack of equipment and lack of space are preventing you from establishing an exercise habit. However, most of the exercises listed above can be done in the bedroom or living room! The apartment dweller can also create a new exercise habit by using a routine that requires only a set of dumbbells or resistance bands and an optional exercise mat. I prefer dumbbells, but resistance bands are cheaper, take up even less space, and are portable. Try a 15-minute workout like this one, a 30-minute workout like this one, or another simple workout routine on a website like Fitness Blender. Pick a habit to stack it on, start at a level you’re comfortable with, and start your new habit!

The Road Warrior: Perhaps you drive long distances for work or other reasons. You are often on the road or in hotel rooms. The above approaches might work for you, as well as simple bodyweight exercises. No equipment is required to perform sets of push-ups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, walking or jogging, or even jogging in place in a motel room, workout area, or other available space.

The person fighting the disease: Depending on your illness, it may be wise to ask a doctor to give you clearance and guidance on exercising. But it’s almost certain that exercise of some kind is needed to help you fight that disease and improve your overall health. Again, you need to make sure you’re taking the right and safe approach, but the disease may be more of a barrier in your mind than it actually is to your body. Even many people who have chronic illnesses can and should build an exercise habit by starting with a combination of light cardio and some functional strength training. Functional fitness not only helps you move easily and injury-free, but it also builds muscle, burns calories, and helps you stay healthy in the long run.

The unsuitable but available person: If your body is out of shape, even very out of shape, but your mind is willing, you’re about there to start an exercise habit! With just a little extra effort, that willing mindset can overcome obstacles like lack of time, lack of space, lack of equipment, and other barriers and inhibitions. You haven’t started yet, but you are very close to success. Choose a habit to stack your new habit on top of and use one of the approaches above or the simplest of the beginner workouts. This could literally start with a five minute walk up the street and a five minute walk back. You can also choose from a short workout that suits your situation, plus some stretching. It might seem simplistic at first, but once you get into your willing mindset it turns the last corner and it becomes action in the form of a real exercise habit, your walks will get longer, your workouts will improve, and your body and mind will feel stronger and stronger. The key is to get started.

Even if you don’t have any exercise habits and are facing one or more of these obstacles, you can become a person who exercises regularly. The only thing to focus on is changing your mindset. If you’re willing, you can. Find an exercise routine that works for you. It doesn’t have to be an impressive physical feat – it can simply be something you enjoy or something that fits your situation or schedule. Pick one habit to stack this simple exercise habit on top of. Set small, achievable goals for yourself, and with a little patience and persistence, you’ll break the zero exercise habit. As soon as you do, you’ve taken the first step on a fitness journey that can make you stronger, healthier, and happier.


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