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The Science Behind Building a Habit

Fitness Education, Health Information
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In a study conducted by Medium, an online publishing platform, it was found that among 1,000 people that invested in working towards personal development goals and building better habits- 96% had failed by the 90 day mark.

80% of people fail to stick with their New Year Resolutions once February rolls around.

Why is it so hard to form a habit, and actually stick with it?

Chances are, you don’t know the science behind building a habit and when you fall off track you’re left feeling less than, and inadequate. You’re not the problem….your approach is. We have good news for you-  it’s simpler than you’d think!

The habit loop is made up of 3 steps; a cue, a routine, and a reward. This is taking place whether you realize it or not! The cue is an event or situation that triggers an automatic behavior. The routine is a physical, mental, or emotional response- the habitual behavior. The reward is your brain’s positive reaction to the habitual behavior, think of it as the positive feedback that ends the loop and encourages it to happen again.

Building a habit feels different when you think about it in terms of steps right? Think about one of your goals you set this year, let’s use going on a daily walk for example. For the cue, you’re going to choose a time that you want to commit to going for a walk everyday, maybe it’s your lunch break at 12:15 or maybe it’s after work at 5:00. Set a reminder on your phone if that would help you! So once your cue is set, choose the routine- whether that’s a ten minute walk, a one mile walk, etc. The reward for this habit loop naturally will be the endorphins that come after getting some movement in plus a boost in self confidence for sticking to your routine. However if you need a bit more motivation in the beginning here’s an idea. For the first two weeks of building a habit, choose two physical rewards- they don’t have to be big. After the first week of being consistent with your new habit, you get reward number one. Something small like getting your favorite coffee from Starbucks that day will still reinforce in your brain that you’re rewarding consistency. After week two, you get your second reward. Eventually you won’t need a physical reward, the endorphins and self confidence will be enough, but if you want to make the reward special to really motivate yourself in the beginning it can definitely help!

Those are the steps for building a new habit, but what about our “bad habits”?  Unfortunately you can’t just wish away a habit, you can either change a current one or form a new one. In order to change a current habit you need to identify the cue, routine, and reward.

For example, let’s say you struggle with sleeping in everyday and can’t seem to wake up on time for your workout. Whether you realize it or not, that’s a habit in your brain! The cue being your alarm going off, the routine being you snoozing it (maybe with the hope of “just 5 more minutes”) and the reward is being happy you got some extra sleep. Once you understand the three components of a habit you can manipulate it to work in your favor! So what you’ll want to work on is changing that routine. What’s something you can do to get yourself awake enough to actually get out of bed? Try changing the routine from “snoozing your alarm” to “sitting up chugging water”. So the cue is still the same, but now when your alarm goes off you’ll sit up and take a few sips of water instead  (make sure water is close by so you’re not tempted to snooze!). Once you’re awake enough to get out of bed your reward is the self confidence that comes from waking up and having a productive day!

Habits take work and this isn’t a cheat code to make it easier necessarily. But this does give you more structure into setting goals and allows you to understand your brain’s response to the things you do. Give yourself a better chance of sticking to your goals by going into it with a plan rather than a general idea. Once you understand how a habit operates – once you diagnose the cue, the routine and the reward – you gain power over it.

How does this relate to Klasik Fit? We aren’t just here to give our clients workouts. We understand the importance of behavioral changes when aiming to improve your lifestyle. When you work with a Klasik Fit Coach, they’ll help you set goals and they’ll be there to hold you accountable. In our app, you can even set reminders to help get the “cue” in motion. Even better, your reward could be the self confidence you get from completing a habit,  but with our Coaches you get the added bonus of external praise as well. Getting that positive feedback from your Personal Trainer is enough to make your day and keep you going!

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