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The Art of Habit Creation: Habitual Exercise for the Whole You 

The Art of Habit Creation: Habitual Exercise for the Whole You 

REVIEWED BY — Tanya Mezher, MS, RDN, CDN

We’re just gonna be straight up with you because there’s no way around it: you have got to move your body. 

Click-bait advertisements can pitch you a hundred bizarre alternatives to exercise, but we all know they mostly sit on a throne of lies. The truth is, nothing compares to the natural, full-body-and-mind boost that follows a solid, sweaty workout. It actually doesn’t matter what you do – dance class, Peloton, helping a different friend move apartments every day (if you live in NYC, you know this is pretty much par for the course), living room Zumba with your auntie, – you can promote longevity and all the quality of life benefits with any regular commitment to exercise. 

No matter what you choose, one part is inflexible: working out, or at least some daily movement,  has to be a habitual part of your routine. sAy iT bACk: “Working out has to be a habitual part of your routine!” It’s the habit of exercise that gives you all the brain and body benefits and the momentum to keep it going. No habit, no benefits. 

BODY AND MIND BENEFITS

The concept is actually pretty simple. We know that regular workouts lead to physical and cognitive well-being. To take it a step further, using the lens of functional medicine, the mind-body connection is crucial. 

Vanity never fails. We all want to look good (whatever good is) and this can be a powerful motivator. Longevity and general physical health is another thing that gets us up and out. But we tend to forget what a good workout does for your mind. This is another backed-by-science undeniable fact: Moving your body is one of the most effective ways to regulate mood, boost energy levels, and optimize concentration. 

Many of us have heard this before because even psychiatrists prescribe regular cardio workouts in the treatment of persistent anxiety and depression. More science: After an aerobic workout, endorphins, the natural chemicals associated with mood elevation, flood the brain. When engaging in physical activity, you up the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and increase the brain boosting molecule BDNF, which helps with focus, mood, and cognitive function. 

THE BENEFITS OF HABIT

You: “But why tho?” Fine, fair question. Self Magazine, Kevin Hart, basketball coaches, and people with stethoscopes around their necks all agree: a healthy person should try to get 2-3 hours of aerobic exercise per week. Before somebody makes up a garbage life hack, we should say this doesn’t mean you can get a three hour workout in a day and cross it off your list. The frequency of your workouts is actually more important than the total hours. 

We’ll back off the drill sergeant vibes here to give you the good news. A solid habit of regular exercise throughout the week actually makes it easier to hit your goals, which then makes it easier to keep it going. 

Habits are proven to rewire your brain and yield powerful results. Think about it: YOU CAN REWIRE YOUR BRAIN to take better care of yourself and  promote longevity. 

Over time, working out regularly becomes second nature, almost automatic. If you commit and take your exercise plan one day at a time, working out will require less motivation and lead to all the wonderful mind-body benefits. 

Nike: “Just do it.” Yoda: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Daft Punk: “Work it. Make it. Do it.” Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Do it NeyAOW!”

Malla: “Do it, please. 🥹”

A quick, simple, straightforward recap:

  • The only way to experience meaningful exercise results is through repetition. 
  • Whatever you choose (getting screamed at by the guy on your little Peloton screen, Auntie Zumba, etc), just stick to it. 
  • If you’re a morning person (absolute madness, but you have our respect), get those thirty minutes while the birds are chirping or whatever and reap the benefits of heightened concentration and energy. 
  • Not a morning person? Get your exercise after work to release the stress of the day and promote deeper sleep. Find the habit that works for you and then stick to it! 
  • Bonus points if you workout outside, as nature exposure has its own laundry list of health benefits, including reducing risk of depression
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