Lady walking down a lane in the morning

Ways to Make Your Activity a Habit That Sticks

With restrictions lifting and summer beckoning, many of us are thinking about how to be more active. This could be trying to pick up an old habit that has not been possible for the last year or starting something new.

While the activity is really important, equally important is thinking about how to embed the behaviour so it becomes routine. This is where behaviour change theory can help out.

What Do We Mean by Behaviour Change Theory?

One of the best-known behaviour change theories out there is called COM-B. This stands for Capability, Opportunity, Motivation – Behaviour. The idea is that if you have these three elements in place, your behaviour will change. Here are the elements in a bit more detail:

  • Capability – Are you able to do the behaviour you are interested in? This can be broken down into physical and psychological capability.
  • Opportunity – What do you need to be able to do the behaviour? This could include things such as time, space and equipment.
  • Motivation – What is driving you to do the behaviour? Have you got a conscious reason behind the behaviour, or is it a habit you do without thinking?

How Could it Work for You?

Let’s have a look at what this could mean for you, using ‘starting to run’ as an example.

Capability wise, you will need to be physically able to do some running. However, this does not mean you have to already be super fit. Starting with Couch to 5k is a great way of gradually easing yourself into running, and week one only suggests 60 seconds of running at a time.

Psychologically, you may feel uncomfortable about being near others outside. You may feel safer taking advantage of the lighter mornings and evenings to find a time when there are fewer people about.

For Opportunity, you will need to consider time. Can you find 20 minutes, a couple of times each week? Kit is also a consideration; a comfortable pair of trainers should be all you need to begin with. Where are you able to run? Do you have a park nearby, or are there some residential streets you can use for laps?

Last, but definitely not least, is Motivation. How can you make this behaviour become automatic?

More About Motivation

A good starting point for motivation is consciously thinking about why you want to run. Is it to feel fitter, lose weight, look after your mental health, or something else entirely?

It can also be helpful to attach new habits to a ‘trigger’ or build it into an existing habit. Running first thing in the morning when you get up, before you can get distracted or talk yourself out of it, can work really well but is not for everyone. If you have small children, perhaps after the bedtime routine is a better time to focus on your running and enjoy a bit of ‘me’ time in the fresh air.

Can you also incentivise your runs by finding a friend to run with, or at the same time as you? This way you can support and motivate each other on those tougher days.

Finally, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Building a new habit is hard, and missing days here and there is inevitable. While some tough love can help, being overly self-critical reduces motivation in the long run.

We’d Love to Hear What You’re Doing to Make it Stick!

If you are looking for more inspiration, you should check out our Active Devon Let’s Move Facebook group.

If you are trying to get into an activity habit and have found this information useful, we would love to hear from you. What activity habit are you working on? How’s it going? What are you doing to make it stick? Stories from real people help us to understand the challenges you face, and make us better at what we do. Please get in touch with Tim Howard using our contact form.