Let’s Talk About Habits
OK…time for some personal questions. Don’t worry … no one has to know the answers other than you.
- How many hours has it been since you last brushed your teeth?
- In the last 10 times you rode in a car, how many times did you wear your seatbelt?
- How many days has it been since you exercised for at least 30 minutes?
I’m fairly confident your answer for No. 1 is somewhere less than 24 hours and for No. 2 you answered “10.”
Now how about No. 3 — the dreaded “E” word? When was the last time you exercised? Ideally, you didn’t have to think too long and the answer was less than 48 hours. Unfortunately, though, most Americans (if they’re telling the truth), can’t remember the last time they exercised. Research indicates, based on objective data, that less than 5 percent of adults get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (which is the recommended target — 30 minutes, five days per week). Between 25 and 33 percent say they exercise, but when you strap on accelerometers and actually measure activity, the results show a much different story.
(It’s well documented that what people say and what they do rarely correlate. Over the phone, men are always taller than in person and women always weigh less than when actually placed on a scale.)
So if I’m accurate in my predictions, then brushing your teeth and wearing a seatbelt are two of your healthy habits. A habit is something you don’t have to “think” about … you just do it. Years of research indicate the more you have to think about something the less likely it will ever happen. Turns out that health is about 70 percent habit and about 30 percent genetic (you can only blame Mom and Dad for so much).
There are plenty of habits that contribute to outstanding health besides brushing your teeth and wearing your seatbelt: maintaining an appropriate weight, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding tobacco products, managing stress, getting enough sleep, taking the right supplements, and getting the right age and gender appropriate exams (like mammograms and colonoscopies), etc.
However, at the very top of the list I would place exercise — or physical activity if that term feels more palatable. The odds are overwhelming likely you already know this. Nothing is going to give you a better return on investment than exercise. Nothing!
We’re designed beautifully, and we’re designed to move. Stop moving and the body ceases to function on all cylinders. The key, though, is that physical activity has to be consistent — not just every now and then. It needs to be a habit (there’s that word again). Regular physical activity should be something you don’t have to think about. It should be just what you do … much like brushing your teeth and wearing your seatbelt.
I’ll leave “How to Make Exercise a Habit” for a future posting, but in the interim I’ll give you a hint … start where you are! Don’t try to go from zero to 60 overnight. The body is incredible at doing what you ask it to do, but before you can get the benefit, you need to build the habit. Studies show that baby steps are the key to building habits, so MAKE IT SIMPLE … and consistent.
Published on: 10.20.16