How technology can help create healthy habits that stick

Start 2019 on the front foot

It’s the time of the year when resolutions are made, plans are drawn up and various self improvement schemes are hatched. The problem with many such schemes is they don’t last beyond the first few weeks of trying. People run out of motivation, other things get in the way and the plan withers.

This happens because motivation alone is rarely enough to see a project through. What matters is embedding a healthy habit – that is, a habit that is positive, is easy to maintain and helps you achieve your goals. Healthy habits, according to various lifestyle coaches, take about three to four weeks to form, and that process of habit-formation can be planned. Here’s how to do it:

Write down SMART goals

‘SMART’ stands for ‘Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timebound’ and it means your goals should be specific and measurable, like “run one mile in under 15 minutes on my first day’. As each goal gets achieved, another one replaces it. In this way, you work through a plan of activity that adds up.

Do the activity daily for the first 3-4 weeks

As previously mentioned, the key to forming a habit is repetition. And when doing something hard like getting healthier, it’s important to do it daily – going out for a longer run twice a week often isn’t frequent enough to form the habit. But doing a small run every day can be. It’s more important, at the start, that the goals are attainable, and can be achieved daily, in order to help form that habit.

Use tech to track your progress

One way to stay on track, is to keep a record of your progress. There’s lots of wearable technology around these days that can help you measure performance against goals: Fitbits are popular with runners, riders and swimmers because they make it easy to set fitness goals, show progress against the goals, and also show how you are improving over time, especially around steps, distance and calories. Even if you don’t have a Fitbit, installing the app on your phone will still give you estimates for each of these, provided you have your phone on you when exercising. The app also includes a workout calendar, to help you track what you accomplished and when, helping you see improvement, and badges that act as a reward when a goal is achieved.

Pair up with a friend

Even with all the above, there are going to be times when heading out into a dark, wet night for a run is the last thing anyone wants to do. Teaming up with someone is a way to handle this – someone who can keep you motivated when you feel like you’ve had enough. The Fitbit app includes notifications to remind you when something you don’t want to do, is happening, but there’s also social media integration to help you share updates with friends and get extra support when you need it.

Do it for yourself

There are lots of reasons why anyone wants to get healthier but the most important way to stay motivated, is to remember the benefits you stand to gain. The habits you form should be about what you want to improve, rather than things you ‘should’ improve.

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