The idea that you can change a lifelong behavior in a short time frame is intoxicating, particularly if you have made the New Year Resolution to get fit and healthy.

Repetition is said to be the key to success. However, the intricacy of changing habits is more than just repetition, it is contextual and response driven. Psychologist term habits as ‘context-dependent repetitions.’

If we use the example of teeth brushing, no one gets up in the morning excited and motivated to brush their teeth…the behavior is triggered by; waking up, visiting the bathroom, after breakfast, or some other autopilot behavior (habit).

Brushing teeth is considered a “good” habit and skipping breakfast a “bad” habit. It is important to understand, habits like autopilots don’t have personalities. Therefore, habits are not defined by who we are, but rather what we do.

The Doing of Habit Change

Systematic habit changing is not as simple as it sounds, because it is tied in with our belief and reward system for living our best life.

The popular health and fitness change system is the “21 days to change a habit.” Is it true or false? The answer is – it depends. I will argue that a habit can take as little two days or over two years to change.

Let me explain; if you have been reading my blog for a while, then you may know I love my morning coffee, you may not know that I also LOVE cinnamon donuts too.

IF there were a sliver of scientific, irrefutable evidence that a daily coffee and a cinnamon donut would improve my health, then, I would be racing out the door every morning early – totally motivated for donuts!

Instead…the scientific and irrefutable evidence is; daily EXERCISE will (sadly, without a donut) improve health and well being over time.

….ho..hum…the reward is not immediate and my motivation is not so driven for exercise, nevertheless, over the years, my morning coffee and exercise has become my routine (habit).  

Irrefutable scientific evidence backed with common sense.

The leading research into “How habits are formed” has come from the University College London (2009), where researchers examined the new habits of 96 people over 12 weeks.  They found that the average time it took for a new habit to form was about 66 days.

Let’s dive into the research a little deeper, it was based on  96 people completing a  self- report each day and recording whether they carried out the behavior.

Of the 96 people studied, only 39 remained to the end of the study and made a behavior change, their habit change index factor varied from 18 days to 254 days…and this is my conclusion: changing a lifelong habit is hard for any one who is not prepared for the long haul.

My anecdotal evidence through working with hundreds of clients is; real sustainable changes in personal fitness takes over 2 years, and it starts with the will to never give in to sedentary living – never, ever and forever.

If I’m scaring you right now, let me bring you back to the concept of “forever healthy,” are you looking for health and well-being that lasts only 21 days or forever?

Start putting your workouts on autopilot today with our New Year’s Resolution Challenge (it’s free) and keep starting every day, until, on any day, you have done the exercise that it takes to get fit now and forever!

I understand it is difficult to make daily exercise a habit, and I would love to help show you how to make it easier, let me know in the comments below. Or send me an email any time!


Live well with fitness!


Written by Anna: Nutritionist and Exercise Therapist