How to stick to an exercise regime

A multi-ethnic group of senior adult women are taking a yoga class together at the gym.

Many of us know that we should be doing more exercise and want to change our lifestyles, but it's easier said than done – especially when we're having a bad day or month. Here are some tips which could help set you on the path to better fitness...

Make a timetable and make it a habit
We all know that getting in shape doesn't happen by itself, but it's easier to stick to the plan if you go to the trouble of setting some times and days for your workouts.

By making it an "opt out" activity instead of an "opt in" you have to think of a reason not to do it, rather than trying to muster the motivation to hit the gym, pool or street in the first place. Different research claims that it takes between 21 days and six months for a new activity to become a habit. Be strict with yourself from the outset and it will only get easier.

Find out what's fun
Your chances of successfully sticking to your new exercise regime will also be significantly increased if you actually enjoy it. If you've joined a gym then try out a range of different classes and activities; if you're running try pounding the streets and going off-road; if you're cycling try riding on the flat and through the hills.

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins anyway, but you'll feel much more motivated to do it again if you enjoy your chosen activities in their own right as well.

Team up with a friend
There are two aspects to this one. Firstly if you make a plan to hit the gym or go for a run with a pal, you'll find it much harder to drop out than if you had planned to go solo. And sharing your workout with a friend will turn it from a chore into a social event and a chance to catch up.

If you really want to shift things up a gear, arrange your workout with someone fitter than you. A study carried out at Kansas State University showed that people pushed themselves up to 200 per cent harder if they thought their exercise buddy was better than them. Just don't get carried away and undo all your good work in the pub afterwards.

Plan ahead
Sometimes the hardest thing about an exercise session is just getting yourself out the door in the first place. If that sounds like you, do everything you can to remove those barriers. Pack your gym bag the night before a morning workout, put your running clothes out ready to wear as soon as you finish work or keep your bike permanently prepped ready for the next ride.

If you're exercising outside, keep checking the weather forecast on your smartphone and plan your session around the rain.

Bribe yourself
If all else fails, consider resorting to bribery. After all, you know what's likely to lure you to the gym better than anyone else. The term "temptation bundling" was coined by psychologist Katy Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania to describe a technique by which she paired-up the chores and tasks she should be doing with the treats she wanted to enjoy.

Applying the concept to exercise might mean only watching a favourite TV show while on the exercise bike or waiting until you've made three visits to the gym to treat yourself to a meal out.

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