Changing your body is a big commitment. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, bulk up, or maintain heart health, sticking to a new exercise routine can be arduous. A recent study conducted by the University College London found that it takes around 66 days (or two full months) for a new behavior to take hold and feel automatic. But, putting the work in is something only you can do—and that’s the real challenge.
Maybe you work long hours and have limited time to devote to working out; maybe you’re disheartened by slow progress, or maybe you just don’t like exercising. If a traditional exercise routine just doesn’t keep you motivated, try these tips to boost your results without much extra effort.
#1: Wake Up Earlier
One of the simplest ways to kick-start weight loss is simply to alter your sleep schedule. If you tend to stay up late and sleep in, you’re making weight loss harder for yourself. Studies show that waking up early is correlated to a lower body mass index (BMI). A 2014 study published in the Public Library of Science concluded that people who are exposed to bright morning light (which is short-wavelength, blue light) seemed to kick-start our natural circadian rhythms better than later-morning and afternoon light.
Similarly, lack of sleep has also been found to increase appetite and decrease physical activity. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that female participants who slept less than five hours each night were 15 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven hours or more. If that’s not enough to convince you to get to bed earlier and wake up with the sun, consider a study by the University of Chicago Medical Center that found sleep deprivation reduces fat cells ability to respond to insulin, making excess weight even more difficult to shed.
#2: Pay Attention to What You Eat
Eating mindlessly is a favorite activity for many people. And it leads to some serious weight gain. Even making a minimal effort to track your daily food intake is a powerful factor in predicting weight loss. A study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine sought to identify the most potently predictive factors for weight loss. The group of 1,685 overweight and obese adults spent six months attending weekly meetings, keeping food journals, and exercising. Researchers found that participants who recorded their meals at least six days a week lost twice as much weight as participants who journaled one day per week or less. Simply being conscious of the food you consume helps to curb overeating, making your weight loss goals that much easier.
#3: Pick Fun Workouts
Choose activities that are high-calorie burners but that also make you happy. If you hate running, don’t set a goal to run five miles every week—that’s setting yourself up for failure. On the other hand, participating in activities that don’t feel like working out—like walking the dog, playing ultimate Frisbee with a group of friends or going to a group class, like yoga or The willPower Method® —make the transition to regular exercise easier.
As reported by the Mayo Clinic, swimming is one of the most aerobically-intense physical activities you can do. An average-sized adult (about 200 lbs) will burn about 892 calories in an hour of vigorous swimming—that’s far more than running five miles per hour, cycling, resistance training, or stair-walking. Plus, water’s weightless environment makes working out easier on the bones and joints. This, coupled with the cooling effect of water makes lap-swimming and water aerobics an activity that’s easier to stick with than hot, sweaty workouts like rollerblading and jogging.
#4: Make it Public
Being open about your goals and progress can be a powerful motivator to continue. Ironman athlete, Tariq Ali recommends capitalizing on your social media account to stay on track. Regularly posting your workouts and progress photos establishes accountability, making you more likely to continue exercising rather than calling it quits. Apps like Endomondo Sports Tracker, Runkeeper, and DailyMile record your improvements and sync smoothly with Facebook and other social media outlets. If you’re a more private person, try sharing your goals with close friends and family. They’ll offer support and assistance that’s not so overt.
#5: Find a Companion
Establish a regular exercise routine with a fellow exerciser. Better yet, make exercise a family or couple’s activity so that you have one more reason to participate. If you choose to work out with your children or spouse, you’ll feel more apt to set a positive example for them. A 2012 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that those exercising with a partner saw improved performance in aerobic exercise. In other words, asking a friend, neighbor or relative to work out with you is an easy way to enhance the effectiveness of your training sessions without going out of your way.
Though jumping right in to an exercise routine may be easy for some folks, it’s not the most compelling course for most people. Incorporate some of these tips into your current routine (or use them to start a fresh one) and start seeing results faster.
Guest Blogger Lizzy Bullock, is a swimmer, Red Cross certified swimming instructor (WSI) and swimming coach with over a decade of experience working with infants, children, and adults. Lizzy currently works as a swimming instructor and staff writer for Aqua Gear, a swim school and online swim shop.