#218 The 2 Secrets to Making Exercise a Daily Habit

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The 2 Secrets to Making Exercise a Daily Habit

Most people don’t really enjoy their workout.  Perhaps that explains why so many people never get their money’s worth with the gym membership.  In this article, I share the two secrets to making exercise a daily habit.

Why Exercise?

If your reason for exercising is to burn calories, build muscle or even improve your cardiovascular health, then chances are really good that you’re doing exercises that you don’t really enjoy all that much. And if that’s the case, then you’re missing out on one of the healthiest effects of exercise.

Exercise isn’t just for physical health. It’s also critical for optimal brain function — it’s vital “brain food.” But because most of us only think of the physical impact, we miss out on a good part of this benefit.

The Best Exercise

Exercise of any sort — but especially exercise we really enjoy — has been shown in studies to be as effective as pharmaceuticals for many people suffering from depression. Exercise we enjoy can also boost our memory, increase our brain processing speed, improve our concentration, reduce our stress, and help free us from addictions. Yet ask most people why they are exercising, and they’ll tell you it is because they’re trying to be physically healthy.

Tip: Only Exercise in Ways that You Love

I frequently have patients ask me what kind of exercise they should be doing. To be certain there are better and worse forms of exercise for any given person, but the starting point for anyone should be: Make it enjoyable and convenient.  These are the two secrets to making exercise a daily habit.

Do What You Love

If you don’t enjoy it, after all, you’re probably not going to do it. You’ll have no trouble at all finding an excuse not to go to the gym, or not to run that extra lap, or not to make the walk on a cold winter morning to the local community pool.

Make it Convenient

Likewise, even if you love the gym, if it is 20 minutes from your house you probably won’t go there as often as you should. Most people don’t have an extra 40 minutes in their day to make that sort of round trip drive.

The Benefits

When we choose to exercise in ways that we love, the effects are essentially turbo-charged, because we’re getting the mental and physical health boost that any exercise offers, plus we feel the benefits of anticipation beforehand, feel happy during the exercise itself, and feel content after we’re done. All of that means we’re far more likely to exercise regularly and to continue doing so for a long time to come.

Making Exercise a Daily Habit

That’s why I tell my patients not to worry if their idea of enjoyable exercise isn’t physically akin to spending the morning at a CrossFit gym (although there are plenty of people out there who enjoy nothing more than AMRAPing at their local box — and that’s awesome.) But if you love nothing more than taking a daily stroll around the park, or taking a leisurely bike ride along the local riverfront, then those are the exercises that are right for you. As long as it is also convenient, it will be easy to keep that exercise habit for life.

How do get your daily exercise?  Please leave your thoughts and question below.  I’ll do my best to answer everything within 24 hours.

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10 Comments
  1. I read while I ride my bike on a trainer early in the morning, which is safer than outside in the dark and useful from a mental and a physical perspective.

    • A great question. Personally, I prefer to think of this question a bit differently. I would say, how much natural movement can you incorporate into your entire day?

      If you look at the longest lived people in the world, none of them exercise. Rather, their lives are one of continual movement throughout the day.

      However, for those of us who have jobs and work in the real world, being continuously active throughout the entire day just isn’t possible unless you have a treadmill desk or a bicycle desk that you use all day long. For the rest of us, current guidelines are for 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily. If you prefer high intensity exercise, then you only need half this time.

      Hope this helps!

      John

  2. What works for me do to regular walking is having an event to train for. I walk half marathons, so you have to do long walks regularly to work up to them. I travel different places to walk a half marathon (the Rock & Roll series allows 4 hours for half marathons so that’s enough time to walk it). Last year I travelled to Brooklyn, and this year I’m doing the one in Denver. Plus I walk with the walkers in a running group on Saturday mornings who also are training for events, so that gives me a group to train with. They train early on Saturday morning, so I have the rest of the day free to do other things.

    I have to say I don’t really enjoy some forms of exercise. I was signed up with a local boot camp studio but I find I’m not really enjoying it, plus it’s expensive, so I will end my membership.

    • Hi Diane,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Find what you love and do it regularly. Likewise, don’t feel compelled to do any exercise you don’t enjoy doing.

      Congratulations on combining travel with exercise. I love how you are always looking for the next half marathon.

      Personally, I hate the gym. If you had to go to the gym to exercise then I wouldn’t exercise at all.

      For me, I need to be outside in nature to enjoy exercising. Thus, I have something I enjoy doing outside during every season of the year. When it is warm I mountain bike, run mountain trails, or hike. When it is cold, I ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, or go back country skiing.

      Thanks for commenting!

      John

  3. I read the newspaper article about Dr Bunch’s study regarding not needing to take low dose aspirin if your ablation was several years ago. You did mine in 2011. Are you going to comment on the study? Any problem me stop taking the low dose aspirin?

    • Hi Bryce,

      The study that Dr. Bunch led at our hospital was yet another study showing the same thing…aspirin is not very good at all for preventing strokes from atrial fibrillation. In addition, aspirin significantly increases the bleeding risk.

      Regarding whether or not someone taking aspirin to prevent atrial fibrillation strokes should stop or not, is something way beyond the scope of what I can answer online. There are many different considerations that all have to be evaluated. However, anyone taking aspirin for atrial fibrillation should definitely bring this up with their doctor.

      Hope this helps!

      John

    • Yes, Dr. Day, please comment. Of course, this assumes the ablation worked and you’re AFIB-free.

      • Hi Diane,

        Great question. You are correct, some people are unable to exercise due to the severity of atrial fibrillation symptoms. However, in my experience, this is less than 1% of the atrial fibrillation patients I see every day in my cardiology practice. For 99% of my atrial fibrillation patients, any exercise is highly encouraged.

        Hope this helps!

        John