It will take you an average of 66 days to develop a fitness habit. We are all familiar with habits. Think about some of your most essential habits; like brushing your teeth or remembering to take your purse or wallet with you wherever you go. How did you develop those habits?
Most likely your teeth brushing was reinforced by a parent who routinely marched you to the bathroom and stood over your shoulder to make sure it got done. The purse habit, on the other hand, was probably reinforced by a terrifying oops moments when you rushed back to a food court table to discover your purse sitting, unmolested, where you left it…yep, I’ve been there.
I’ve often heard it said that it takes 3 weeks to develop a habit. When it comes to ingraining a habit, I wondered if 21 days was really enough for a habit to become second nature. I came across a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, which concluded that it actually takes an average of 66 days for a person to pick up a new habit.
In a study released in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally and her team of researchers surveyed 96 people over a 12-week period to find exactly how long it takes to start a new habit.
Over the 12 weeks, the participants chose a new habit and reported each day how automatic the behavior felt. At the end of the period, Lally analyzed the results and found the average time it took for the participants to pick up a new habit was 66 days.
While her results were focused on the time it takes to create a habit, we can look at it inversely, and the time it takes to kick an old one and pick up a better one.
Source: Elite Daily
This number makes a lot of sense in light of my weight journey last year. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the biggest defining factor for my successful weight loss, after years of failed yo-yo attempts, was the concerted effort to journal my thoughts and reactions to food for a full 50 days.
So, it’s not surprising that this research study would conclude that it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to become automatic. At the same time I also see some significance in the 3-week model in regard to fitness because I usually notice perceptible changes in my stamina and muscle tone after three weeks of a particular fitness activity. Typically, people are more encouraged to continue an activity once they receive the reward of noticeable feedback.
If indeed it is going to take you just shy of ten weeks to successfully develop a fitness habit, it makes sense to consider some factors that can help ensure your success. To develop the two life habits I mentioned earlier (teeth brushing and keeping up with a purse/wallet), habit formation required accountability and reinforcement; whether positive or negative.
Now, let’s see how these two factors could relate to developing a fitness habit.
It always helps to have accountability, which basically involves telling someone about your fitness goals. There is a reason why weight loss programs like Weight Watchers are so successful. Participants are required to weigh-in at the beginning of each meeting. When a person walks in the door for a meeting, she knows that someone is going to be waiting there with a scale and a clipboard.
There are numerous ways to build accountability into your fitness goals.
Reinforcement is the second essential element for developing a fitness habit. There needs to be self-imposed rewards and punishments for sticking to your routine or falling off of it. You are less likely to stick with something if you have nothing to gain or something to lose.
So, are you ready to mark off 66 days to develop a fitness habit? Once fitness becomes part of your routine, it will no longer seem like a drudgery. Instead, it just becomes a normal part of who you are and what you do.
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