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How to Start a Fitness Habit: For People Who “Don’t Work Out”



Do you want to get into shape but can’t seem to get yourself out of the door? Establishing new routines is challenging for most people. However, a fitness regimen is a habit that is essential for all and can lead to a wealth of both short and long-term benefits. Whether you have tried unsuccessfully to work out in the past or are just starting out, these tips can help you start a fitness habit:

Step 1: Mindset

What is your reason for working out? Are you doing it because it’s yet another thing on your list to check off? Are you reacting to external pressure? You’re more likely to work hard at a goal that will lead you to where you genuinely WANT to be, not where you should be. If you’re not trying that hard, you’re probably not convinced that the benefits will outweigh the struggles involved in starting a fitness routineSpend some time getting yourself into the right mindset first.

Read as much as you can on the benefits of fitness, think about it daily, and identify situations that will be improved in your life if you do work out. Often it’s not discipline but motivation that we lack. Working out can be taxing; we need a good reason to pull through the discomfort. Getting fit doesn’t only help with weight control, but it can improve your mood, sleep, energy, and appearance.

Step 2: Set Aside a Specific Time to Work Out

Instead of viewing your workout as something to do if there is time, schedule it into a non-negotiable time slot and treat it like an appointment. Find a time during the day when you’re not busy or lack any tempting distractions. For example, avoid scheduling your workout sessions during times when your friends are likely to get together, or during the timeslot of your favorite TV program. If you don’t feel it’s important enough to schedule into your day, you may want to reconsider your motivations for working out.

Step 3: Start Small

If you don’t work out often, it’s unrealistic to expect yourself to wake up at 6 am to run a mile every morning. Whenever we hesitate to start something, it’s often because it seems too overwhelming. Scale it back to a manageable and realistic goal you can achieve. Try working out for 5 minutes a day. It may be tempting to work out longer, but keep in mind you’re conditioning yourself to NOT resist working out, so don’t be too zealous on your first few days. Pick something easy or enjoyable so you’re not intimidated to start.

Light walking or swimming for a few minutes is good low impact workouts, to begin with. Be creative and integrate activity throughout your day, such as vigorous cleaning or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You want your workout to be easy enough to get started, but be careful to not fall into complacency or you’ll get bored. Set definite goals to gradually improve, but start small.

Step 4: Record your Progress

Keeping a log will help you get a better idea of your progress, a critical step that many overlook. Sometimes you may miss a day and feel disappointed, but realize that you have actually been steadily improving over the months. It can be encouraging to see yourself improve overall, even when you’re not getting regular feedback.

Conversely, if you’re not meeting your fitness goals, you can see how and why you can improve as opposed to feeling dejected. Often we’re not doing as much as we think we are towards our goals and we become frustrated when they don’t actualize. Keep it simple so you’ll use it. Write down the date, time, duration, and type of workout.

Make it a habit of doing this immediately after working out, as it can prevent exercise from falling off your radar.

Step 5: Accountability: Include Other People

If you’ve tried working out before and failed, you’re probably cringing at the idea of involving other people in your endeavor. Failing in front of others can be embarrassing; that’s why we often keep our personal goals to ourselves. But in fact, you’ll receive the added bonus of positive reinforcement from other people who want you to succeed. Studies show that people who were able to change difficult habits usually elicited the help of others.  The encouragement or disappointment of others will help motivate you in the beginning when getting started is the hardest and the rewards seem distant.


The quality and quantity of your workouts at this stage aren’t as important as making it into a daily habit. Getting out for that first initial workout can be challenging when you’re starting out. With limited sources of willpower, it wouldn’t be efficient to coach yourself into working out on a daily basis. Some articles suggest working out on alternating days or they recommend strenuous and complex workouts. Save those routines for a later stage; for now, get into the habit of working out during the time you choose so that it becomes second nature.