Exercise, make it a habit

Developing a habit of regular exercise can be a challenge. Overcoming this obstacle can provide many health benefits for our overall wellness and lead to a better quality of life.

Making exercise a habit can be one step down your path to wellness. Photo by Joshua Sperry.

Developing a habit of regular exercise can be a challenge. This is because our brains confuse change with threat, and we prefer to stay in our comfort zones, explained Chris Pennington, a consulting manager of Emerson Human Capital Consulting. However, what is best for us is not always easy, and making difficult changes to develop new healthy habits is good for our bodies and minds.  

UVU’s “Making Exercise a Habit” health coaching program is a free resource that helps push students out of their comfort zones to develop new and healthy habits. According to the Wellness Website, the program helps students learn the definition of different types of exercise, the amount of exercise they should be getting, the benefits of exercise, the barriers to exercise, how they can combat the barriers of exercise, and why they should make exercise a habit. To conclude the program, a game plan for lasting change is created with the help of an intern. 

To create this game plan, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART) goals are taught. These SMART goals help students overcome difficulties by specifically defining the parameters of their goals and by setting a time frame to achieve them.

Change is difficult, and unfortunately, students as well as many Americans struggle with creating healthy habits of their own. According to studies published by Harvard Medical School and written by Patrick J. Skerrett, “Only 18% of [Americans] meet the weekly recommendations for cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening activity.” Additionally, “The most commonly performed activity—after eating and drinking—was watching television or movies, done by 80% of those surveyed.”

The article “Why Your Brain is SO Not Okay With Change,” written by The Disruptive Element, explains why change is difficult for most people. Our brain works against change because “we’re programmed to cling to the familiarity of habit [as an] … innate aversion to risk.” Our brains see change as a risk and try to make us avoid both.

However, although we are hardwired to resist change, it is important to note, “whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth,” stated Bryan McGill, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and UN-nominated Global Champion. As the common adage states, “There is no growth in the comfort zone, and there is no comfort in the growth zone.” This principle is important because it motivates us in creating new healthy changes, especially when it is uncomfortable to do so. 

Sometimes recruiting a support system can be motivating in these efforts. Regarding this, Stephanie Berry, a UVU student and wellness coach, said, “I have an exercise partner that helps by holding me accountable to show up. I do a small amount [of exercise for] 30 minutes, so it doesn’t seem like a chore. I make it a habit by trying to stay as consistent as possible.”  As a result of this consistent healthy habit, Berry has reported better sleep at night, reduced body aches, and more stable emotional health.

Although change can be naturally difficult and uncomfortable, these challenges are extremely important to overcome. As Berry explained, making exercise a habit in our lives can provide many health benefits for our overall wellness and lead to a better quality of life. If creating a regular exercise habit seems intimidating, or you’d like help getting started, the UVU “Making Exercise a Habit” program is the perfect resource for you. You can sign up at uvu.edu/wellness

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