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Five Habits of Daily Exercisers

Long-time exercisers say the reason they stick with fitness is because it's a habit. They plug it into their daily routine, much like brushing their teeth or reading the morning paper.

Every morning, rain or shine, Lucy drinks her coffee, pulls on her sneakers, and walks out the door. She comes home 45 minutes later and feels great knowing she's gotten her exercise out of the way. At 80-years-old, Lucy hasn't missed more than a dozen daily walks in over 60 years. She's fit as a fiddle and unlike some of her friends, Lucy doesn't have any significant health problems. She lives independently and is as sharp as a whip. Lucy credits daily exercise as her key to longevity. She credits the power of habits for keeping her motivated.

Habits are powerful. People tend to give more credit to their bad habits (like smoking, overeating, or nail biting) than to good ones, but long-time exercisers say the reason they stick with fitness is because it's a habit.  They plug it into their daily routine, much like brushing their teeth or reading the morning paper. Their day simply doesn't "flow" without it.  The fact that exercise makes them feel and look good and keeps them strong, calm and healthy only reinforces that habit.

How do you make exercise a habit?  Experts say that when you repeat an action or behavior at least 21 times, it stands an excellent chance of becoming a regular habit.

Try these five tips to establish your fitness habit:

1) Make a commitment. Write it down, and tell your friends and family and make it public. Ask them to keep you accountable, support your goals, and join you as you build better habits.

2) Schedule it. Don't expect exercise time to appear by magic.  You have to make time for it, just like you would a dentist appointment, pedicure, or business meeting.  Program it into your day planner. Schedule a couple weeks worth of exercise slots in advance so you can plan for it.

3) Do it first thing in the morning. If fitness is part of your morning routine, you'll have it over and done with and won't let anything else that comes up get in the way.

4) Do it at work. Give up your lunch-hour fast food run and hit the gym, bike trai,l or local track instead.  Ask coworkers to tag along. Or, add "fitness" to the end of your workday and exercise on your way home.

5) Make no excuses. Even if you're exhausted, bored or feeling lazy, honor your exercise commitment to yourself.  You don't have to do a full-court press every time.  If your energy level is low, do something easy like a walk instead of a run. If you're bored, do something different like a bike ride instead of running on treadmill.  Any exercise you do counts as part of your new habit.