Well, you’ve joined a gym. That’s good. It demonstrates a commitment to one or more important goals: an attractive body, physical strength or better health. Whether you know it or not, joining a gym is an excellent place to start to reach any of these! Research supports this.
Most people will need at least a little help to incorporate an effective exercise routine into their lives. You see, changing habits– adapting the “good ones” and discarding the “bad”– can be a challenge for even the most disciplined person. Fortunately, there are predictable and effective ways of doing just that. Research has found that habits are contagious—both good ones and bad. When you exercise in a gym, everybody else is doing similar things. It’s like you “catch the bug.” You don’t get this extra “boost” when you exercise alone. In addition, exercising in groups helps to “bolster your beliefs.” It leaves us to (silently) assume: “If everybody else is doing it, it must be right.” That certainly helps us persevere, particularly if the going gets tough.
Joining a gym has yet another benefit. Habits are more rapidly and effectively learned when taught by experts and through observation of others. Voila’ another benefit for joining a gym.
I recommend that you sit down for this one. Researchers have found that people who exercise regularly tend to engage in more behaviors that are considered as “responsible.” These behaviors include eating less and better; getting to bed earlier; smoking less; balancing checkbooks; washing dishes earlier in the day; etc. Regular exercise is one of a few “Keystone” habits*: a habit that brings several others along with it. Different cultures have different keystone habits. In the US, kids tend to be better behaved and excel in school if their families eat dinner together. The same is true in other cultures where families eat breakfast together. Who would have thought that maybe you’re completely turning over a new leaf? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves……
Research has found that, when it comes to habit change, Willpower is not enough for most people. 50% of what we do throughout our day is automatic/unconscious habit. We have limited capacity and resources to simply “will” behavior change. But there are many methods and “tricks” that people can use to bring desired habit change about quite effectively and with minimum discomfort. I plan to describe these to you in my next several blogs.
In the meantime, I recommend that you do the following:
- List your goals for joining the gym. What is your ideal outcome? What will you be satisfied with?
Examples: Losing 40 pounds; 40” chest & 34 waist; bench press 250 lbs; reduce cholesterol or blood sugar to normal range
- List why you are striving for these goals. What are the benefits of reaching them?
More attractive; increased self-confidence; feel better with more energy; live longer
- What other habits do you need to incorporate and/or discard which will help you reach your gym goals? (or are related to your gym goals?)
Better eating; less eating; more or better sleep; manage stress better; better organized or less busy; less time in front of the tv or on the web
What’s Next?: Let’s meet here again next week!
In the meantime, it’s time for you to share your thoughts, comments and even goals right here (below). I will try to address them.
Michael Karp, MA – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
*For more on Keystone habits and habits in general, refer to: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/)