Making Movement A Habit

Cynthia Young

We know that exercise is good for us.  So why is it so difficult to get motivated?

Did you know the NHS suggests that Adults should aim to:

  • do strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week e.g. Pilates, weights
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week e.g. walk, cycle, jog, tennis
  • spread exercise evenly over 4 to 5 days a week, or every day
  • reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity

In August 2022, a year after the last UK lockdown, Nuffield Health research found that 2 in 5 women had got out of the routine of exercising during lockdown and were finding it difficult to restart.  The main reasons given; a lack of motivation, finding the time and not knowing where to start.

It can be hard to feel motivated and find the time to add another responsibility into the day.  I get it, some days it is not easy to motivate yourself to exercise.  General Life, work, injuries, our health, family responsibilities, tiredness, our social life already place demands on our energy and time.

Why should we exercise?

Here's just 10 health benefits of exercise.

  1. Improves your mood and helps alleviate anxiety and stress
  2. Gives you more energy as your body starts to move with more ease
  3. Improves your fitness, flexibility and strength
  4. Keeps your mind agile
  5. Increases muscle tone, which starts to decrease from the age of 30
  6. Increases bone mass especially important for women over 50
  7. Helps you sleep
  8. Gives you more confidence in your body as you feel improvements in your body or technique
  9. Movement is now the leading recommendation for dealing with back pain and mental health
  10. Reduces the risk of developing many long term chronic conditions, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers

Regular exercise is SO important for us and it is worrying to imagine how many people are not benefiting from exercise and do not feel comfortable in their own bodies.

So how do we make exercise a habit?

I had just read James Clear's book "Atomic Habit" before the Nuffield Health article.  I highly recommend reading it as it gives practical steps/methods to stop or create a habit.

Starting small is perfect.

We should be more interested in making small changes that have less impact on us initially but will accumulate over time.  Rather than making big changes that do not give us immediate rewards and so are harder to stick to in the long term.

We need to make movement easy and accessible.

It has to be impossible to avoid something that you do most days.  Taking the stairs instead of the lift/escalator, walking an extra bus/tube stop or even walking instead of driving somewhere.

Make exercise easy to get to or start.

It could be something you are able to do on your own with minimal equipment like jogging, a short stretch routine, joining an online class or finding something on the way to or from home or work.  Minimising the time around the activity so it eats up less of your day.

Habit stacking.

Adding movement onto a habit you already have, one that you do most or every day.  Many people add balance exercises when they brush their teeth, stretches while a series you watch recaps, squats/press ups before you shower, the hundred before you get out of bed, a quick breathing exercise before you leave the bathroom.

Make movement fun and/or interesting.

Find something you enjoy or an activity that is building skill or teaching you something. To remain motivated you need to feel progress either in your technique, skill level or in how your body feels.  If you don't, try a different activity or class.  Once you feel some progress you will chase even more.  If you're working out on your own at home it can be more difficult to push yourself so try occasionally check in with a partner, someone online, a class online or have a personal training session to keep you motivated and inspired.

Stay Positive and keep going.

There will be times exercising will be the last thing you want to do, sometimes these are my best workouts!  You will not always be up for it but those are the sessions where you will probably make the most gains one way or another.

Listen to your body.

If you feel like a walk one day rather than a run or doing a class go for a walk..  You need rest days/time physically and mentally.

Joseph Pilates knew that people would benefit from regularly practising his exercises but he also recognised how hard people find it to start a new routine.  So much so in his book "Return to Life through Contrology" he asked that you performed his exercises regularly four times a week starting with 10 mins, why?

" will subconsciously  lengthen your trips .. from ten to twenty minutes before you even realise it.  Why?  The answer is simple:  The exercises have stirred your sluggish circulation......"  Joseph Pilates, Return to Life Through Contrology.

So purposefully start small.  Little and fairly often.  And enjoy the journey.

One of my favourite quotes.


If you are struggling with motivation to exercise, finding the time or knowing where to start I created a series of short on demand classes ranging from 7 to 20 mins for  Making movement accessible from anywhere anytime, short on time commitment, flexible as you can do a class or two depending on time and with practice feeling progress.  You are welcome to try this FREE for 14 days just click here.