4 Steps to Developing Health Habits

We all know someone who is always saying that they are going to “get into shape”.

But, they never do. They know what to do, but they just don’t do it.

Basically, the opposite of Nike

So, how do we get them to do it? Glad you asked.

This study found that individuals who focused on behavior-changing strategies were much more successful than those people forced to endure their doctor’s cognitive approach to behavior change.

Instead of attempting to change their knowledge, beliefs and attitudes surrounding exercise and healthy eating, study participants were successful at increasing their physical activity levels by implementing 4 simple strategies:

Goal Setting

Setting SMART fitness goals involves 5 steps:

  • S – A specific fitness goal could be a walk each morning before breakfast.
  • M – For a goal to be measurable, you should define how far you are going to walk and how often you will perform the workout
  • A – To be achievable, you should start off with a task that you can achieve, knowing that the distance / intensity will increase as for fitness improves.
  • R – To be relevant, your goal should be in tune with your overall fitness goal – weight loss, improved blood pressure, etc.
  • T – To avoid ‘accidentally’ missing a workout, you should arrange a specific exercise appointment in your daily calendar.

Stimulus or Cues

Establish physical reminders to encourage yourself to exercise – Pack your gym bag and leave it by the front door every night, leave yourself notes encouraging yourself to work out, schedule your workout into your electronic schedule with an alarm, ask friends or family to call and remind you…really any reminder will help.

Self Monitoring

Keep a workout and/or food log book. It’s tough at first, but it pays off in the end.


Reward yourself with a non-food based treat when you succeed. The rewards should become larger / more important to match the degree of fitness success.

Successfully completing today’s workout deserves a small treat, but not missing a workout for 3 months deserves a really big pat on the back.

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  1. OMG that image of John Daly with his shirt off is not leaving my mind 😦 Oh well…

    I think the workout log is a great way to record progress and making progress=better self esteem which leads the drive to exercise harder.

    I will admit I have a very hard time keeping a food journal, it would definitely help but I lack the needed discipline.

  2. The effectiveness of cheat days varies from person to person.

    Some people need to stay super strict on a diet for a month or two, wean themselves off and go back on.
    A cheat day every week can throw a wrench into the works and mess up the fat loss.

    For others, a cheat meal becomes a cheat day becomes a cheat week…

    For others, a cheat day keeps them sane and allows them to keep their focus on the task and not blow the entire diet.

    You may also want to consider adding your cheat meal in after your workout. At least the extra calories should be diverted to re-fueling muscles instead of going into storage.

  3. bentlyr,

    They are not for everyone, but when someone is trying to diet, discipline is their best friend.

    Keeping a food log is a total pain in the butt, but so is dieting. If someone doesn’t have the discipline to keep a food log, how likely is it that they will have the discipline to stick to the diet.

    Not that you need to diet.

  4. Love the post! I actually talked about SMART goals in my blog recently as well and find them to be very effective. It really forces the individual to clearly define what they want to accomplish and why they want to accomplish it, in a way that makes doing so more manageable. Keep up the great work! -Jon

  5. I absolutely love this article…I needed to read it and remind myself to just go back to the basics. Set realistic goals and be accountable for the choices I make. Thanks so much!

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