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Are you struggling to exercise consistently? Let's use neuroscience to help!

Have you heard the phrase ‘it takes 21 days to form a new habit’? Did you know this actually comes from the preface to a 1960s book written by a plastic surgeon, who posited that it took most patients around 21 days to become accustomed to their new face? It is anecdotal, not based in neuroscience and not rigorously tested.

In fact, from numerous experiments, it’s been suggested that habit formation varies significantly from person to person, habit to habit.

Getting into the habit of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning will form more quickly than the multi-step habit of exercising – going for a run, or going to a class – as there are fewer pieces to get into place.

Getting exercise into our lives as a routine or habit is a brilliant step towards overall wellbeing and happiness. The benefits of regular exercise are enormous and broad ranging –from improved mood and sleep quality, to heart and brain health, to disease prevention, to immune response, emotional regulation, stress reduction, pain reduction, happiness… the list goes on and on.

The reason exercise is so good for all our systems is because we have evolved for movement to keep us safe and alive. Being strong, mobile, fast, quick to respond, well-rested, free of pain etc., were all crucial to our survival as ancient humans. And in order for us to keep moving, we’re evolved to have a brain that is wired to reward us – light up the pleasure centres of our brains, release feel-good hormones – when we move, so that we will keep doing it!

So, back to habit formation. If exercise and movement are so beneficial for all our systems and feel so good when we do them, why is it sometimes so hard to form a regular exercise habit?

One reason is because, although the brain is highly adaptable and loves to learn new things, it does not fundamentally like change – change is unknown, and the unknown is scary to our brains as the brain’s overriding function is to keep us safe. We would be safer from our brain’s perspective lying on the sofa watching Netflix and eating chocolate than we would be going to a new class, a new place, meeting new people – from our brain’s perspective, the unknowns could harbour potential risks.

So, to form a new habit, we need to do a few different things:

1) Take some of the unknown out of going to a class. To help with this, I’ve recorded a video of how you arrive at the studio, what the studio is like, where you park, how to get in, where to put your shoes and bag, and what to expect – so you can prepare your brain and make it feel as though it’s already been to a class, and this is no longer something to worry about.

2) Set an achievable goal. The brain focuses brilliantly on achievable tasks and goals, meaning there’s less procrastination and distraction, and more reward when you hit the goal. Perhaps it’s getting a 5-class pass and using it as consistently as you can, or going to 1 or 2 classes each week, or continuing some of the exercises you’ve learnt at the class at home – and once you reach that goal, you’ll need to set a new one, and another one, and another one to keep your brain happy!

3) Connect socially at a class if you can. I’m honestly excited to meet and see everyone who comes through the door, and I love learning about you! So you are guaranteed to be greeted and talked to/at! As our class sizes are small, there’s a lovely friendly relaxed vibe with some chatting. This all helps to boost the social reward centres in your brain, making it more likely that you’ll stick to your new routine.

4) Try to take away as many steps/opportunities to not do your new exercise routine as possible. For instance, if you’re trying to get out to a yoga class each week, book a few weeks at once (on our system you can reschedule easily, so this isn’t a risk), or if you know you hate going out in the cold, get your coat, warm socks and scarf ready (and know I’ll have the heating on and candles lit!).

5) Tell someone else you’re going to be doing this habit – accountability is so powerful for our brains! We’re social creatures and value what other people think of us.

6) And if all else fails… make exercise your procrastination from something else. This works wonders for me – if I’ve got a deadline, I find loads of opportunities to move my body rather than work to meet it in a calm and reasonable manner...

Once a habit is formed, it takes less brain energy to fulfil, meaning it is much, much easier to continue with. It takes very little processing power for most people to brush their teeth, make a cup of tea or put their shoes on to leave the house as these are all very well ingrained habits. Know that for the first few weeks, the habit is going to take extra effort – but this isn’t for ever. Once exercising is habitual, you’ve cracked it and you’ll never look back.

If you start now, you’ll set before Christmas, meaning the New Year will be an absolute breeze.

Have a look at our classes and our timetable, and please send me (Jo) a message if you’d like more info, if you’d just like to touch base before arriving at a class or if you’d like me to be your accountability buddy and help you get started on your exercise habit - you can email me any time on x

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