Like eating healthy food, it can be challenging to see the short-term benefits from exercising. In fact, engaging in exercise can be downright uncomfortable at the start. But as we describe in Brain Wash, once started, exercise feeds upon itself to improve your brain and your body. It is the perfect positive feedback loop once you’re able to get it started. Here are three additional ways to overcome the hurdles to consistent exercise.
Redefine yourself. One of the things we’ve learned from behavioral psychology is that we strongly value internal consistency. We are willing to go to incredible lengths to make sure that what we do is in keeping with who we believe ourselves to be. This bias can create problems for us, but it can also be harnessed to our advantage. The key is to redefine your identity in a healthier way, so that you develop a desire to stay consistent with the new identity. To make the consistency bias work for your benefit, make a commitment to engaging in some form of exercise each day—something you’re sure you can manage. For example, I (Austin) started doing 20 daily push-ups. Once I had done 20 push-ups a day for a week, I started to feel uncomfortable when it got later in the day and I hadn’t done my push-ups. This then became a strong motivation for me to be consistent in my exercise.
Remember, you’re always training for a marathon. It’s tempting to jump onto the latest exercise kick, to buy expensive new equipment and sign up for the most intense workout classes you can find. The problem with these options is that they tend to be unsustainable. Your goal is to spend as much of your life as possible with a healthy, active body, not to go all out for two weeks and then revert to a sedentary lifestyle.
Incorporate new routines. There may not be a substitute for a dedicated 30-minute exercise period. But one way to supplement your base workout is by incorporating brief exercises into your usual routine. For example, if you find yourself watching an hour of TV each night, make a deal with yourself that you have to do 20 push-ups and 30 crunches before you watch the show. I like to make all commercial breaks into an obligatory exercise interval. In this way, the TV show becomes a reward for doing the exercise, and you build movement into your day.
For more on exercise, discover our exercise focus page!