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5 ways to make exercise a habit

For many, a summer holiday is motivation to get fit and healthy. But after returning from two weeks of sunshine and indulgence, getting back in the fitness swing of things is often easier said than done – and many struggle to find their fitness mojo. This is especially important considering the recent news that increased regular physical activity (even an extra few rounds of golf) may reduce someone’s chances of developing five chronic diseases. So if you’re struggling to regain your motivation, or simply want tips on making exercise a habit, read on:

1. Remember what the post-workout buzz feels like

Getting to the gym is often the hardest step, so you need to remind yourself how good it feels to have completed a workout. According to the Stress Management Society, keeping fit has a huge impact on your mental state. Feel-good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins are released, acting as a natural mood-booster. A recent University of Tennessee study discovered that long-term exercisers (those who had exercised for 13+ years) ranked feelings of wellbeing as their top motivating factor for staying active.

Simon Cowen,Fitness First Master Trainer says:

“When you get back from a holiday, routines have been broken, diets have been compromised and good times have been had. Get into the gym, the first session might be the hardest, but it will be your best. Working out will release endorphins, which will give you that buzz back. You start as you mean to go on, it breaks the holiday malaise and sets your mind up for the time ahead…”

2. Set a goal

Studies have shown that goal setting is an effective strategy for behaviour change and a way to maintain motivation. Why not sign up to the Couch to 5k® app that helps beginners start running? Or for a slightly tougher challenge, opt for a 10k or half marathon event. With its picturesque, relatively flat course, the Royal Parks Half Marathon is great for half marathon newbies. For more information click here.

Angela Ioannou Everyone Active Area Fitness Manager highlights that it’s also important to think of the smaller, everyday goals:

“It’s very important to have a final goal in mind, but in order to achieve it you need to focus on all of the small daily victories. Go out for that walk, take the stairs, challenge yourself to try new activities and enjoy them. To achieve something new you have to do things you’ve never done before. Persistence is the key to your success.”

3. Find a buddy

Not only are you less likely to quit on a workout if exercising with a friend, but also you’re more likely to amp up the effort. A Kansas State University researcher discovered that working out with a particularly fit friend might mean your workout intensity and duration is increased by 200%.

Classes are also a great idea. Fitness and nutrition expert Laura Williams explains:

“It’s easy to think the heat’s off (excuse the pun) after the summer in terms of staying on track with your fitness routine. Chilly months of oversized fleeces and long evenings can make slacking off seem appealing so try and think out of the aesthetic box. New classes – indoor and outdoor – are a great way to keep your fitness mojo alive. You’ll find a new exercise tribe and more than likely this will help you create some new goals. You might find your new exercise hobby fires you up for getting in shape for an Autumn hiking holiday or a January ski break. Instead of viewing the start of Autumn as an ending to the summer, try and see it as the start of a whole new fitness chapter.”

4. Walk it out

For a simple way to be more physically active, swap the bus and the car for a walk. Walking might not be as cool as a spin or dance class, but it’s still effective tool for keeping fit. Although a small study, research presented at the European Society of Cardiology by Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St. George’s University Hospitals discovered that a 20-minute daily walk could be adding years to your life. The average person walks 3000-4000 steps a day, but the NHS suggest aiming for 10,000 steps a day. A good way to do this….

5. … Is by monitoring your progress

In a Harvard University blog, Linda Arslanian, director of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital reveals that she believes fitness trackers and pedometers are helpful. She tells the author: ‘When you can see what your activity levels are, and you know that someone is checking them, there’s accountability, and you’re motivated to work harder because you want to comply.’ She adds that she uses similar techniques with patients and clients. Some fitness trackers also monitor sleep and other healthy lifestyle factors. If exercising for the first time, it’s always wise to consult a fitness expert or health professional for advice.

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