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How to Build Healthy Habits in the New Year (and Beyond)

Habits can be hard to form, particularly later in life when we might want to rely on familiar ways. But, armed with strong information and reliable tactics, you can adjust your tactics to succeed in 2022 and beyond.

See, it turns out we’ve been thinking about forming habits all wrong. It’s not about willpower or the latest self-help book. The secrets, in fact, are found in behavioral science.

A new “megastudy” of 60,000 people by a University of Pennsylvania professor says we can improve our physical activity and health behaviors via a few paths.

So, if you’ve faced this “get fit” or “lose weight” self-challenge before – initially enthusiastic, but quickly frustrated -- then don’t beat yourself up anymore. Head into 2022 with this information and these suggestions from the study.

  1. Plan you workouts. The study found that people are more likely to actually exercise if they’ve put in their calendar.

  2. Get reminders. You can set your smartphone to remind you. Or rely on a friend or trainer.

  3. Give yourself incentives. For every workout, you get some small reward. Or after a week of making every workout, or after a month… The point is to give yourself that positive reinforcement.

  4. Don’t miss more than one workout in a row. Build in incentives to get you back on track after you’ve been unable to make a workout. It’s so easy to say, “Well, I couldn’t make it Tuesday, so I guess I’m a failure.” Instead, get back on the horse on Wednesday.

10 More Tips

  1. Eat right at breakfast. Make sure you’re getting protein and fiber, not just the carbohydrates of toast, cereal and orange juice. Particularly after 50, we tend to eat less protein than we should, and we need more fiber.

  2. Plan lunch. If you’re going to work, then pack something rather than relying on impulse and convenience.

  3. Meal prep. The more you prepare dinners in advance, the more likely you are to stay on track with exercise, too.

  4. Think small about exercise. Mini-workouts can add up, so … park farther from stores for the extra steps; take stairs when possible; walk on errands rather than always driving; etc.

  5. Stay consistent. Creating new habits takes time, and fitness comes from prolonged, steady effort – not just a January burst.

  6. Rely on your self(ies). Take a photo once a week and review them when discouraged.

  7. Schedule something special every few months. It can be a 5K, your daughter’s wedding, or the opening day at your golf course.

  8. Make it convenient. Don’t join a gym 30 miles out of your way. Or small-group training at 6 a.m. if you hate mornings.

  9. Focus on moving, feeling and looking better – not just the number on the scale.

We saved the best for No. 10: Build in accountability and sociability into your fitness program. Now more than ever, we need interaction and encouragement.

Let's meet our goals together!

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