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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Warning: Exercise Can Be Habit-Forming

When I was in my twenties (a long time ago), I recall being able to skimp on physical training right up to the moment of taking a PT test and still pass with flying colors.  Those days are long over, and it was never very wise to simply show up on test day and expect to avoid injury while embarking on a two-mile run as well as a push-up and sit-up bonanza.

But how can exercise be formed into a habit?  Guilt doesn't work, and peer pressure is equally ineffective.  The answer is simply to pair the activity with a recognizable reward and allow enough time for the link to sink in.  For me, the reward that worked the best was pairing my exercise with listening to my iPod.  There isn't generally enough time in my day/night to sit down and listen to music, so when I bought a bunch of tunes to load on my device, it was a real treat to be able to hear them shuffle through.

At first, I didn't make the connection between the desire to hear music and the desire to make daily exercise an ingrained habit.  But when my iPod ran out of charge one day in the middle of my 4-mile run, I felt cheated and was very tempted to just quit the exercise for the day.  There is definite power in the link between the reward and the habit that you want to form.  The key is to figure out what makes you happy, and pair one of those things with an exercise activity, and before long, you will be in the habit!

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