What it takes to make exercise a habit | Sunday Observer

What it takes to make exercise a habit

According to the WHO country profile report, in Sri Lanka, noncommunicable diseases (NCD) cause more than three quarters of all deaths and nearly 1 in 5 people die prematurely from NCDs. A few years ago, the United Nations Interagency Taskforce on NCDs conducted a mission in Sri Lanka and concluded that the epidemic of NCDs has become a serious economic as well as public health issue in the country. They concluded that NCDs are fuelled by tobacco use, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity

It is not surprising that most of us in Sri Lanka are creatures of habit. We just follow others and take to smoking, consume unhealthy diets and alcohol and take to physical activity through sheer habit only.

The human conditioning of the mind starts from a very early age. If you remember your young days, you would recall your parents, teachers and superiors conditioning you to do what you are doing today as a habit.

The first habits that you learnt were to eat when you are hungry, use the washroom when necessary, and sleep when it gets dark. Hence, all these actions have become automatic, but at one point they had to be learned and repeated multiple times before the automation kicked in. The same goes for making willpower a habit.

What is habit?

Habit is an action that you have done so often that it becomes automatic to the brain. It requires very little thinking. After conscious efforts on a consistent basis towards a certain action, the brain automates that action. There are many examples of involuntary actions in our everyday lives.

For example, when you ask for something, habit has automated you to say “please.” Another common example is driving your car. The consistent route you take to go to work has become automatic in your brain and requires little or no effort. Sometimes you may even forget that you made all those turns and stops consciously!

The mental potential is limitless. There really is nothing to stop you from doing or being what you want.

It is no secret, the mind plays a vital role in shaping us: the way we are, the jobs we perform and allocate our time to. ‘Successful’ people seem to have their time prioritised and somehow their schedules fit in every single thing they want to do, exercise included.

I have seen and experienced several busy CEOs make time to exercise. They do it all: travel, party, work and exercise, not necessarily in that order. Seeing this made me wonder how these achievers brought fantastic results into every area of their lives. Then, I cracked the code. We need to give a complete 100 per cent to what we want.

Who’s a winner

A winner is someone who has put in that little bit extra. All of us have it in us to go 80 per cent of the way. It is that last 20 per cent that makes the difference between those who win and those who do not. That last 20 per cent is really the toughest part, something like the tip of the pyramid. Starting out is easy. Lofty resolves are easy too. A lot of them would have been floating around at the birth of this new decade. By now most of them would have dissolved into nothing. Forgotten figments of the fertile imagination.

Power of the mind

A physical test on athletes preparing to participate in the Olympics had them all wired up to machines. They were instructed to feel like they were in a practice session. The machines they were wired to recorded their muscle responses.

Guess what the machines reported? That when the athletes imagine they were in a practice session, the muscles they would engage were actually fired up, without them doing a thing physically. It demonstrated the power of the mind to the observers!

The mental potential is limitless. There really is nothing to stop you from doing or being what you want by knowing deep within you that you can do it. If thousands of people can find time to exercise why can’t you do it? It is really for yourself that you are doing it. It is not everybody who wants to win Mr. Muscle Man or Miss Universe. A lot of us only want a body that is energetic, flexible, healthy, well balanced and reasonably toned.

2.5 hours a week

In fact, you don’t need to spend hours in a gym. Your body needs only 30 to 45 minutes of exercise, four to six times a week. A day has only 24 hours. It is how a human utilises them that makes the difference.

Whether high flying individuals with high net worth or software creators glued to their monitors, they have but one constant: the 24 hours and the fact that the winner has to work a little bit harder. Be a little bit smarter at time management. And, yes, a little bit more persistent.

The human mind created machines, even those we work at. Yet the same mind will put 10,000 obstacles in your path when it comes to exercise.

Make it a habit

Pick any exercise you like: walking, yoga, aerobics, playing an energetic game outdoors, many choices are available today. Do it for 21 days. That’s all.

Then do it for another 21. You will find you have the time on day 22, 23, 24 … because it has become a habit. You have just shown your mind who is the boss and your body began to respond. Not only will you notice a difference in how you feel, your body will start responding in small yet noticeable ways.

Initially, only you will know. You will be able to bend a little further, push yourself harder, stay focused for longer.

Crossing boundaries and creating records takes but a fraction of a second. Still it can be done. If you can imagine it, you can do it.

It is the imagination that sent man to the moon, it is imagination, practice plus confidence that got him to run a mile in four minutes, and again, it is imagination and dedication that would get him where he wants to be, scaling new heights and creating new records.