Breaking into a new routine is tough, and it’s where most people fail. You start going running once or twice but it just doesn’t stick, and eventually you find yourself falling into the same old unhealthy routines. You could try setting an audial cue such as an alarm or even get some sort of tracking app to kick your A into G, but will it be enough?
New research by Alison Phillips, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University, finds that it takes more than a conditioned cue to stick with an exercise routine.
What she found was that it’s a combo of things that makes a new routine stick. The alarm is the first step followed by an intrinsic reward that helps develop and maintain exercise as a habit.
Having the reward stops exercise from being a chore and quickly makes it more enjoyable. “If someone doesn’t like to exercise it’s always going to take convincing,” Phillips said to Iowa State University News. “People are more likely to stick with exercise if they don’t have to deliberate about whether or not to do it.”
If you don’t feel better or enjoy exercising then given the choice you’re going to cave.
Intrinsic rewards could be an internal shot from you body of endorphins or serotonin. Other rewards could include going to the gym with a friend, either way your reward has to come directly from the exercise.
If exercise is not a habit, then it’s effortful and takes resources from other things you might also want to be doing. That’s why people give it up
“If exercise is not a habit, then it’s effortful and takes resources from other things you might also want to be doing. That’s why people give it up,” Phillips said.
The reward you need to help form your exercise habit is probably going to be different from everyone else. Phillips recommends that each individual must identify their intrinsic reward and personally experience it.
Phillips and other ISU researchers are currently researching a guide people will be able to use to help find their intrinsic reward and how to use appropriate cues for their exercise routine.
However she’s under no dillusions that it will be easy. “Although the strategies may be easy, implementing and sticking to them may prove quite difficult. It may be a classic high-risk, high-reward endeavor.”