How to Make Exercise a Habit

By Marsha Hudnall
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I've been a fan of Nordic walking for several years but have been stymied in my passion this summer because of worn-out rubber tips on the poles.  When the metal strikes the ground, or asphalt, it makes a hollow ringing noise that definitely casts a pall over a peaceful walk in my neighborhood.  Which is surrounded by woods, ponds and just general quiet beauty.

I did replace the tips this spring but they wore out again in about a month.  The tips I replaced them with just weren't the quality of the originals, which lasted about two years.  Definitely have to go back to the original.

This post isn't about complaints about rubber tips on walking poles, though.  It's about how we form habits, something that's often discussed among women who are on the search for healthy weight loss.

I finally decided I couldn't stand the noise the walking poles made without the tips anymore, and took a walk without them.  As I had been regularly walking with them for the last two summers, it was odd.  I found myself pushing off with my poles, even though I didn't have any in hand!  And then wondered whether I was getting any kind of muscular benefit from doing that.  It certainly seemed like there was some isometric exercise going on.  Regardless whether there was or not, there was certainly exercise going on in the walking I was doing.

The illuminating thing to me was that I had formed a habit of walking using my arms.  And then I started to think about how habits are formed.  By doing something the same way every time we do it.  It just becomes our way of doing it, without thought.

There's another important factor here, too.  It helps if what we're doing is something we enjoy.  Because if we enjoy something, we're much more likely to do it regularly.

I love Nordic walking…with rubber tips.  I've formed a habit of doing it in the summer because I enjoy it and because it's my only real exercise during those months beyond the occasional weekend hike or kayak.  Guess that says I've made exercise a habit.

I haven't formed the habit yet of strength training.  It's just not something I enjoy, and I keep hoping someone will discover it's not necessary.  Not holding out any real hope for that but I am holding out hope of finding a form of strength training I like.

Think about the last time you tried to make exercise a habit.  If you were successful, what do you think was key to your success?

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