Getting fit – and staying fit – relies on something the scientists have coined ‘automaticity’.
Research shows automaticity is a key differentiator between active and inactive people.
And interestingly it is not dictated by personality, genetic make-up, or body type – automaticity is something everyone has the potential to enjoy.
“Automaticity is what happens when you turn exercise into a habit you do frequently without even thinking about it, like brushing your teeth or saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’,” says Dr. Jinger Gottschall, Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Colorado and Lead Researcher for the study.
Gottschall says, “Most people understand that exercise is good for them and a cornerstone of good health, but far fewer of us are able to put this into practice and lead a consistently active lifestyle.” By exploring the differences between regular exercisers – those who exercise for at least 150 minutes per week and have done so for the past 10 years – and people who are inactive, we can now see which behaviors contribute most significantly to long-term exercise success.
SCIENCE SHOWS 5 TRAITS ASSOCIATED WITH EMBEDDING EXERCISE AS AN AUTOMATIC BEHAVIOR:
- Tracking exercise and setting goals
- Focusing on health benefits of exercise (more so than aesthetic change)
- Scheduling specific times for exercise
- Planning ways to be active, regardless of conditions or other obstacles
- Incorporate challenges such as pushing through exhaustion, upping the intensity, embracing minor muscle soreness
Focusing on activities you find enjoyable, managing intensity levels in the early stages, and adding social elements to your exercise are all great ways to get in the groove and embed regular exercise as a full-fledged habit.
And when you do this, the benefits come thick and fast.
Not only does regular exercise deliver increased physical strength and mental wellness, this new research highlights other less obvious – yet life-changing – benefits.
Over three-quarters of those who are regularly active strongly agree that they’re satisfied with their life, in terms of career, relationships, quality of life, financial prospects and self-esteem. In contrast, the study showed just 23 percent of the inactive group were happy with their life. Those who exercised regularly also felt much more in control. In contrast, 62 percent of the inactive group felt they lacked control in their daily life, regularly feeling nervous, stressed, angry or upset.
We can also see that regular exercisers get a bigger boost out of their activities. 92 percent of the active group said they always experience positive feelings from exercise, such as enjoyment, feeling energized and accomplished. Just 23 percent of the inactive group felt the same. Lastly, those who have the motivation to work out lapped up the social aspects of exercise, considering it entertaining, fun, and a good way to see friends.
The best workouts for beginner exercisers
Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research and co-author of the study recommends beginner exercisers start with fitness options that allow for autonomy and independence with respect to challenge and complexity. This is where digital fitness is ideal. “You can mitigate feelings of self-consciousness, develop technique and find the programs and movements you enjoy most. Online workouts can be a great way to dip your toe in the water without having to dive in at the deep end and start live classes straight away.”
Les Mills has harnessed these scientific findings to create a fun series of free workout videos aimed at helping people take the initial steps on their own fitness journey and set themselves up for long-term success.
“These carefully crafted workouts provide the necessary flexibility to find your level and continually progress,” says Hastings. He notes that adding social elements to your sessions by training with a friend is another great way to reinforce the habit, saying there is plenty of evidence that working out with others can put you on the fast track to long-term exercise success.
You can access a full suite of exercise options, including science-backed workouts, workout plans, expert guidance and coaching on LES MILLS+.