How many times have you started a new workout routine only to stop doing it a few weeks down the road?
If this situation sounds all too familiar, you might be relieved to learn that you are not alone. Anyone who has tried starting – and sticking to – a workout regimen knows just how hard it can be. What is the trick to developing a solid exercise habit?
According to a recent study, the key to developing a healthy workout habit could be the combination of a conditioned cue and intrinsic reward.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at Iowa State University, found that it takes more than just a conditioned cue to maintain a regular exercise routine. In fact, it is actually the combination of a cue and an intrinsic reward that can bring about success. A cue can be something like an alarm clock in the morning or the end of the work day, while the intrinsic reward could be something that is enjoyable or something that reduces stress.
If the exercise routine is intrinsically rewarding, the cue will serve as a reminder that it is time to begin that pleasant experience. If the reward is not very powerful, the cue may just trigger an internal debate as to whether or not you should actually make the effort to start your workout.
In other words, if you do not like the activity, it is not going to seem very rewarding to you on a fundamental level. People are more likely to stick to workout routines that they like. You should never deliberate about whether or not you should actually exercise – that is always a bad sign.
However, intrinsic reward is different for each individual. For some people, the reward might be strictly psychological, such as the boost of serotonin or endorphins in your brain and body. For others, it might be the chance to spend time with friends or loved ones. However, it always takes time and experience to develop intrinsic reward.
If you are starting a new workout routine and want to stick to it, you have to make sure that you are conditioning yourself to want to work out. Remember that not everyone loves exercising when they first begin, but over time, you should start to feel better when you work out and prefer that feeling over the one you get when you skip exercising.
Working out can be a complete lifestyle change. Changing your habits and lifestyle can be a great challenge. However, if you are doing it for your health, it may be well worth it.