The exercise compression step machine my kids bought me for Christmas is still in daily use. As I worked myself into a sweat again this morning (2200 steps in 35 minutes watching 20/20 cricket England v New Zealand) I realised that for the first time in my life I am actually enjoying exercise. I never ever ever EVER thought I would write those words.
I must admit as I unwrapped the present on Christmas morning my heart sank and I feared that no matter how strong my initial resolve – within a couple of weeks the excuses would creep in and the machine would move more out of sight.
In an experiment designed to find out what it took to build a new habit, Professor Wardle ‘s group got volunteers to try to adopt a new healthy habit – giving up couch potato lounging, for instance and taking a short walk. Or not eat biscuits with coffee. Every day the volunteers logged into a website and completed a questionnaire as to what they had done and how easy they found it.
How long did it take for their resolve to become a normal part of their routine? Professor Wardle says “We found it took a very long time – 70 days in fact, although for some it was shorter.”
Hmmm – I need to let you know in about a months time if I really DO have a habit. So far so good.
This is additional weight of course (strange choice of words in this context) for my point about not giving up smoking or drink for lent – if you think that this will be the start of a permanent behavioural change. You will probably reward yourself with the very thing you would prefer to permanently give up at the end of Lent. 40 days is probably not long enough to be sure that you will not start again.
I do hope that my enthusiasm for this new activity doesn’t wane. If I can do it – anybody can.