Get fit and healthy in 2016
Cast your mind back to NYE 2015. What resolutions did you come up with to pursue in the year ahead? How do you feel about it now? You might realise you totally nailed that promise made to yourself 12 months ago (yay!) or maybe it didn’t quite work out the way you planned. Either way, doing something new or different is never easy so whether your 2015 resolution was a roaring success or is a distant memory, it will take a bit of focus to create a new habit in 2016. I know I’m not alone in having felt that I enjoy workouts once I’ve got going, but sometimes it’s the getting going that is the hardest part.
One of the secrets to overcoming this sense of inertia and putting off exercise is to make it a habit. Something that is as automatic as drinking a glass of water when you get up in the morning or brushing your teeth before bed. But forming a habit takes effort, repetition and patience. So how long will you need to exercise effort and patience for before it becomes easy or automatic?
Healthy eating and workout plans take different amounts of effort
A study in 2009 by researchers at UCL1 found that habits take longer to establish than previously thought, on average the subjects needed 66 days to form a habit that was considered to be well-established (if it classed as “95% asymptotic” according to the statistical analysis of the results). The average time needed varied quite a bit between different people and also depending on what type of habit they were trying to establish. Simpler habits that require less planning and less conscious thinking while performing, such as eating a piece of fruit every day after breakfast or going for a walk, were established more quickly than habits that were more complex or required greater levels of concentration, such as taking 15 minutes of exercise every day or 50 sit-ups.
Mark 7th March 2016 on your calendar
So 1st January plus 66 days… that’s takes us to 7th March 2016. Seems like a long way off, doesn’t it? In that case, it might not surprise you to hear that when YouGov asked people about their new year’s resolutions in December 2014, nearly 60% of those that made resolutions tended to break them before the start of February. Londoners actually fared better here than the rest of the UK, but it was still well over half (and this is a self-reported study, perhaps Londoners report their success differently to the rest of the country…?!).
December is a busy month for everyone, so I’m not going to distract you with a detailed explanation of the social psychology of habit formation, instead I’m kicking off a project to get people to commit to their resolutions for that bit longer in 2016 to try and create long-term sustained healthy new habits.
I’m asking two things of you:
- Think about what motivates you, what has worked in the past or what has true meaning for you and share it with me as a reminder to yourself and to help keep others motivated throughout the 66 days.
- Make yourself a promise for 2016 and make a concerted effort to stick to it for at least 66 days – until 7th March!
How to contribute:
- Tweet, facebook comment, comment below or email me your tips
- Keep it brief, ideally less than 127 characters including your name or twitter handle
- Let me know if you don’t want to be credited (I’ll assume you do!)
I’m collecting your tips and experiences and from 1st January 2016 to 7th March 2016 I will post one reason per day to keep that promise on track. Follow me and/or the hashtag #66DayPromise to be a part of the project and make your 2016 different. I’m also promoting the project with flyers over the festive season – here’s a sneak preview:
Behind the scenes, I’m going to compile a list of 66 reasons to keep working at that healthy habit. It sounds a lot but I’m confident that we won’t exhaust the myriad of reasons to keep going or tips to make the habit stick. There – I’ve thrown down the gauntlet! Join me for the ride, I’ll keep that #66DayPromise if you keep yours!
- Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998–1009. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.674 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/full accessed 20/12/2015