Eight Tips to Help You Stick to Your Exercise Plan

Running on a treadmill for good health

If you started off the new year with a resolution to get more exercise, then good for you! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your long-term health.1 And many people may find exercising is easy and fun when they first start out. But then comes the hard part: sticking to the plan once the newness has worn off.

Starting an exercise routine is important, but making a plan to stay with it is the key to success. Here are some tips to help you stick with it and keep that excitement going. Consult your doctor or healthcare professional before starting any new physical activity.

1. Set reachable goals

An article from Harvard Medical School tells us to start by setting a long-term goal - such as walking 30 minutes a day five days a week - and then breaking it into smaller monthly targets. For example, during the first month, focus on walking three days a week for at least 10 minutes each time. During the second month, add another day to your plan. Add another day the third month. Then, every two weeks, add another five minutes of walking each day until you reach your goal. The same plan can work for biking, exercising with weights, getting ready for a half-marathon, or doing anything you enjoy.2

2. Make it fun

Keep looking until you find exercises, sports, or activities you enjoy. The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you're not enjoying your workouts, try something different.3 You're more likely to stick with a fitness plan if you're having fun. So join a volleyball or softball league. Play with your grandkids. Or check out a health club or martial arts center. If you don't like cold weather, try walking laps at the mall and doing some window shopping along the way.

3. Make the time

Finding time to exercise doesn't just happen by itself. You need to schedule workouts just as you would any other important activity. For example, you might plan to exercise on your way home from work. If so, make it easier by keeping your gym bag packed and in the car.

You can also slip exercise into your day in more creative ways. You might plan to take a walk during your grandchild's play rehearsal. Or you can walk on a treadmill while you watch TV. If you look, you'll always find ways to work exercise into your daily routine.

4. Find an exercise partner

When you exercise with a friend, it can make your workout more fun. Your partner can also talk you into working out on those days when you're tempted to skip it.

5. Keep track

Make a chart or keep a log of how far you've come. When you keep track of how much you've improved, and can see it on a daily basis, you'll be more likely to want to stay with your exercise plan for the long haul.

6. Put your reasons on paper

When you're tempted to slack off, remind yourself of why you started exercising in the first place. And don't forget to note an important benefit: improving your long-term health. That alone is a pretty good reason to keep it up.

7. Don't let slip-ups get you down

Nobody is perfect. And a major lifestyle change like making exercise part of your daily routine isn't easy. So when you slip up, or when travel, holidays, or illnesses throw you off, don't give up. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as possible.

8. Reward yourself when you succeed

When you reach a goal, even a short-term one, that's something to celebrate. So enjoy the moment. Reward yourself with some new workout gear, download new music to listen to when you exercise, get a manicure, or take an extra-long bubble bath. You've earned your reward!

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