When it comes to exercise, there’s one factor that trumps all others: consistency. And while this is the key to gaining all the benefits working out has to offer, few people ever make it a long-term endeavour.

Why? “Because life is often hectic, and that makes it easy to lose focus on the importance of physical activity,” says exercise psychologist Dr John Raglin. But you can keep exercise at the top of your to-do list with these three simple steps.

Plan The Day And Time For Each Workout At The Beginning Of Every Week

“This forces you to schedule all meetings, errands and appointments at other times,” says Raglin, “ensuring that there’s always a specific time block allotted for exercise.” Try it for five weeks: British researchers found that it takes at least this long for a new behaviour to become a habit.

Schedule At Least 10 Minutes For Each Exercise Session

With this approach, even a long, busy day can’t excuse you from dedicating at least a few minutes to activity. The idea isn’t to do short [workouts](http://www.mh.co.za/fitness/cardio-plans-get-fit/work-out-program), but rather to establish a pattern, says Raglin. By setting aside time for exercise, you make it part of your routine.

Track How You Feel And Function Every Day

For instance, on a scale of one to 10, rate your mood, energy level and work productivity. Also monitor general health markers, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. “Both direct and indirect feedback can serve as motivators when your exercise goals involve fitness and general health,” Raglin says.

Fit guys are 100 times less likely to die of a heart attack during sudden strenuous activity like painting the garage or running compared to guys who are not in shape