What triggers your urge to hit the gym or lay out the exercise mat? This is the question you should be asking yourself, as it could be the key to maintaining a consistent workout routine, according to a new study done at Iowa State University.

“A fun workout routine will not keep you exercising; you need to form a strong habit”.

Yes there is such a thing, as good habits in other words you need to develop a strong instigator habit. Once you got this down, you will not need to convince yourself to brave the cold, and get yourself to gym as it will just happen automatically.

We all know the ‘golden rule’: in order to stay healthy we need to maintain a balanced diet and exercise regularly. According to psychologists, exercise is another activity that requires initiation as well as maintaining a routine could be difficult especially in today’s fast paced world that’s consistently changing.

So how does one prevent yourself from backsliding, when it’s raining cats and dogs outside and your alarm clock wakes you up for your morning run or morning exercise?

Researchers asked 118 healthy adults to rate the strength of their ‘execution’ and ‘instigation’ habits. The instigator habit is the thoughtless routine that gets you going and ready to hit the gym, for example; you normally go before work or during your lunch hour. The execution habit is the unconscious order of your workout, for example; you always do abdominal work before hitting the treadmill.

Following that, the researchers tracked how often the participants exercised over a month-long period whilst, the participants recorded their experiences in an electronic journal.

Once they looked at the findings, Dr Phillips and Gardener, discovered that it’s the instigation habit that predicted how regularly each participant exercised and that the execution habit did not influence how often the participants exercised.

If you wondering how you can keep up your exercise routine and stick to it; Dr Phillips has some advice.

“If you can do the behaviour in a stable context that will help you develop those instigation cues,” rather than choosing a different time to exercise each day, for example, stick to the same time every day in the early days when you still are developing a new exercise habit.”

However, there will be days when you have to force yourself but in the words of George Santayana, “Habit is stronger than reason”; so work on cultivating a strong instigator habit.


– Alice Paulse