They say starting a workout program is the hardest part, but consistency — keeping at it day after day, month after month, year after year — is a huge stumbling block for the average person. Of course, consistently working out is the only way to attain and maintain results, and researchers have been trying to pinpoint ways for people to maintain exercise habits, after the novelty wears off, for some time.
A new study published in Obesity has suggested an interesting strategy, concluding that working out at the same time is key to forming an exercise habit — sticking to the same time being more important than whatever time of day you pick.
The survey of 375 people who managed 30 pounds of weight loss over the course of a year, 68 percent of them worked out at the same time every day. Nearly half of those people (47.8 percent) worked out in the morning, so again, the timing itself is less important than the consistency.
[Learn more: 7 reasons you’re not getting stronger.]
The researchers emphasized the element of “automaticity,” defining it as “performance with lowered conscious awareness or volition,” using the example of, “through consistently exercising immediately after work, leaving work may become paired with going to the gym.”
Put simply (and in our own words), if there’s a time of day when you work out, that’s when you work out. There’s less decision making involved and you have an illusion that you have less of a choice. It’s time to work out now. This is when you do it. It’s harder to skip out on a workout when it doesn’t seem as optional as “when I get around to it.”
Overall, it is evident that physical activity is partially regulated by non-conscious processes.
Experienced athletes may draw another conclusion from the study: if you’re more disciplined with your workouts, you’re probably more disciplined with your diet which, after all, is the main driver of weight loss. This new study was relatively small, didn’t mention diet, and it was just a survey, but it still functions as a nice piece of evidence that consistency and automaticity can be key to long-term success.
Featured image via 4 PM production / Shutterstock