One of the most common troubles we run into when we work with people to change their lifestyles is discomfort during the habit change process. What we’ll discuss in today’s newsletter is the topic of making the uncomfortable comfortable.
One common myth about habit change is that motivation is the only thing that matters. The truth is that while motivation is important, ease, opportunity, and the environment each play equally important roles.
The best strategy we like to use is a method called tiny habits. If you are familiar with the work of BJ Fogg, you will no doubt have heard of this method before. The tiny habits method takes all of the factors that are core to lasting behavior change into consideration: motivation, ease, opportunity, and the environment.
In today’s newsletter, we will go over some tiny habits you can apply to your own life to help introduce effective exercise into your daily routine.
What is the lifestyle approach?
Simply put, the lifestyle approach to medicine is an attempt to flip the script on traditional therapies, which often come too late and are only capable of managing chronic conditions. Rather than treating only the symptoms of a chronic health condition, our method aims directly at the root cause, and is capable of completely reversing several common chronic diseases (hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even some autoimmune diseases).
Q. Why is the lifestyle approach better?
A: There are several reasons why we believe the lifestyle approach to healthcare MUST be the future of medicine. From a financial perspective, the current style of healthcare is not sustainable. In the United States, $3.6 trillion is spent in health care every year. 86% of that is spent managing chronic diseases. Not treating, not reversing. Managing. From an individual perspective, the lifestyle approach is far more successful, capable of preventing 80% of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and 40% of cancer.
The tiny habits program consists of the following key cornerstones:
- Start small
- Anchor the new behavior to an existing one
- Celebrate your victories
The following suggestions will help you with ideas on where to start with your own. We suggest small adjustments to your daily routine, and you should determine your own rate of growing these habits. Perhaps after one week, if these habits feel comfortable, you can increase the duration or the number of exercises. Additionally, celebrate in a way that feels good for you. Whether that consists of a pat on the back or a “Go me!”, it is important that the little celebration marks a positive mood to pair with completing the new behavior.
Tiny habit #1
Our first suggestion is a way to improve your daily walks. This tiny habit will help you attain a small amount of HIIT training every day. If you are not already familiar with HIIT, it stands for High Intensity Interval Training. The goal of HIIT is to push you out of your comfort zone briefly, and reap great value in a small amount of time. Here is our suggested tiny habit:
- Every time you cross a street, sprint for 4 seconds.
- Celebrate your victory.
This small adjustment to daily walks helps in many ways. Researchers at the University of Austin, Texas have demonstrated that even intervals as short as 4 seconds help boost fat metabolism and lower triglyceride levels. This is especially important for those who lead largely sedentary lives, as these individuals will develop into a state referred to as “exercise resistance”. This state makes it harder to derive the benefits of traditional workouts; however, conducting 4 seconds of HIIT helps to counteract and “jump start” the metabolic process.
Tiny habit #2
No fitness regimen is complete without both strength and cardio training, so our second suggestion is aimed at completing that pair. If you have a pull-up bar that anchors over a doorway, this suggestion can be even better. If not, a push-up accomplishes many of the same goals as a pull-up. Here is our suggested tiny habit:
- Every time you walk through the door to the bathroom (or the kitchen), do a pull-up (or a push-up).
- Celebrate your victory.
Push-ups and pull-ups are complementary strength exercises, with the former focusing on the chest and shoulders and the latter focusing on the back and biceps. Both should train the core if proper form is adhered to. For push-ups, remember to keep your back straight, and bend your arms to a 90 degree angle, keeping your elbows tucked in. For pull-ups, do not push off the ground with your feet, and keep your core tight.
Tiny habit #3
A sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous in many ways. As mentioned above, someone who spends too much time sitting down can develop “exercise resistance”, causing them to benefit less from any future exercise. This can quickly become a vicious cycle, as they exercise less and less, feeling as though they do not get much out of their workouts. Many of us spend several hours every day sitting at our computers, without moving. Here is our suggested tiny habit:
- Every time you yawn, stretch, or lean back in your chair, get up and walk around the office/house.
- Celebrate your victory.
Simply by standing up and taking a brief walk around your house or office, you activate your cardiovascular system. By interrupting the continuous sitting, you help defer the negative side effects that come with a highly immobile life.