- NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many of us resolve to eat better and exercise
more in the New Year - only to have those resolutions slip away as early
as February. But one fitness buff and clinical psychologist believes seven
simple steps can turn exercise plans into healthy habits.
- Dr. Michael Gilewski of the Cedars-Sinai
Health System, in Los Angeles, points out that the brain's cerebellum (Latin
for 'little brain') - is our 'habit center,' helping to shape and control
behavior through repetition and reinforcement.
- "The little brain becomes our 'little
friend' when we try and establish a habit'' by forming nerve connections,
he explained in a statement. The more connections, the firmer the habit.
- So developing the healthy habit of exercise
begins by training the mind. According to Gilewski - who is also a marathon
runner - there are seven steps in the process:
- * Begin today. After checking with your
doctor, start exercising - for whatever reason. If you need motivation,
latch on to any excuse - a growing waistline, the example of a friend,
an upcoming charity run.
- * Start simply. There's no need to run
a marathon the first time out. If weightlifting is your aim, begin with
what's bearable. If you are a would-be runner, start with a brisk walk
around the block.
- * Aim for success. Once you've set you're
goals, Gilewski suggests that you work hard to achieve (and surpass) them.
Rewarding yourself for each of these achievements is also a great motivator
to keep going, he explained.
- * Research your sport. Buy sports magazines
focused on your activity. Explore various facilities or local spots that
seem conducive to the form of exercise you love. Bone up on workouts and
routines that can enhance your performance.
- * Don't overdo it. After a particularly
tough run or sweaty workout, take it easy. Achieving exercise 'balance'
can help you avoid the injuries that can sideline healthy habits.
- * Stay on track. Make exercise a top
priority. Gilewski believes the active person's code should be, "Neither
rain nor sleep nor lack of time will keep me from my appointed workout.''
- * Make exercise a part of your life.
If you love running, hang out with runners. If you're a swimmer, join a
swimming club. The example of friends offers ongoing encouragement, the
Los Angeles expert said.
- Gilewski believes these seven steps are
key in building long-lasting exercise routines. "There is no quicker
way to establish (exercise) habits,'' he said, "given their neurological
and psychological complexity.'' He adds that "by establishing one
healthy habit at a time, each will become a foundation for the next.''