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How Long to Form a Gym Habit? Debunking the 21-Day Myth


red arrow on ground pointing to the gym

I recently posed a question on my Instagram story: How long does it actually take to solidify a gym habit? The options? A quick 21 days, a lengthy 4 to 7 months, or a precise 75 days.

screenshot of Amira's Instagram story

The answer might surprise you: it's 4 to 7 months!


But then why are so many fitness challenges 21 days long?

The 21-day concept traces back to Dr. Maxwell Maltz's 1960 book, "Psycho-Cybernetics." As a plastic surgeon, he observed that patients took roughly 21 days to adjust to their new appearance. But let's be real, getting used to a new reflection and committing to a fitness routine are two very different challenges.


Diving Deeper: What Does the Research Say?

Katy Milkman, PhD, a renowned behavior change scientist, led a study to understand habit formation. The study focused on:


  • Gym Attendance: Collaborating with a major gym chain, they tracked 30,000 members' gym visits over four years.

  • Hand Washing: They monitored 3,000 healthcare workers, using badges to record hand-washing habits.

Thanks to machine learning, the team could sift through this data efficiently, identifying patterns and trends without bias.


The Findings

  • Hand-washing: Became routine in just two weeks, emphasizing the importance of this health practice.

  • Gym-going: A surprising 4 to 7 months!

Here Are 4 Tips To Form Your Gym Habit:

  1. Kickstart your week: Mondays & Tuesday set the tone.

  2. Consistency > sporadic bursts

  3. The more you skip, the harder the comeback.

  4. Rewards can be a game-changer, especially when building momentum.

In Conclusion

While smaller habits might form quickly, more significant commitments, like regular gym attendance, require time and persistence. So, the next time you consider a short-term fitness challenge, remember that lasting change takes patience and dedication. Keep at it, and the results will follow! Was this surprising? Let me know!

a fit woman in looking up from the bottom of stairs

 

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