How Long to Break Bad Habits Through Exercise?


Breaking bad habits through regular exercise doesn’t happen overnight. However, the health benefits of getting 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense exercise on a frequent basis increase your chances of eliminating bad tendencies. Sustaining motivation is also important. Every day is a new step toward overcoming an adverse tendency and improving your overall well-being. Make your goal a conscious effort, put it in writing and steadily work toward eradicating your bad habits.

Changing Habits

  • It takes approximately 24 days to break and create habits, according to Ian Newby-Clark, a psychologist at the University of Guelph. However, time is just one determinant. Other factors, such as how often you perform a habit, affect the amount of time it will take for you to overcome adverse behavior. Consult a doctor if you’re trying to defeat a chemically related bad habit that involves drug use or smoking, especially if you’re considering a regular exercise program. Exercise can help counteract nicotine cravings if you're trying to quit smoking, but it will likely take more than just a few weeks to kick a habit formed by addiction.

Building Awareness

  • Building awareness is an important step toward overcoming bad habits. WebMD outlines a simple strategy that will reshape how you think about the tendency you're trying to conquer. Make a concerted effort to become consciously aware of every time you commit a bad habit. To do this, log each particular episode in writing to reference the frequency of your habit and try to trigger an alternative that soothes your impulse. For example, if you constantly bite your fingernails, try chewing gum to curve your oral fixation.

Replacing Bad Habits

  • Exercise is a strategic method of overcoming bad habits. It’s important to make a commitment to a regular exercise routine for the purpose of creating positive habits. The National Institutes of Health states that 70 percent of smokers would like to quit. The key to conquering an unhealthy habit, like smoking or drinking, is to replace it with a healthy activity. Dr. Russell Poldrack, neurobiologist at the University of Texas, states that both types of habits are based on the same brain mechanisms. Enjoyable behaviors cause the brain to leak a chemical called dopamine, which strengthens the tendency to perform a specific action or activity. Acclimating the brain to the healthy benefits of exercise can therefore diminish your brain’s established tendency to crave unhealthy habits.

Recruiting a Support Group

  • Be prepared for change when trying to eradicate a bad habit. Florida International University recommends recruiting a support group, which is extremely effective when building healthy exercise habits. Select an activity you can share with your friends, like hiking or jogging. Start a running club or get involved in team sports to help build a support foundation. Outdoor sports like basketball, soccer and volleyball demand cardiovascular endurance and require extensive teamwork. These types of activities can ultimately help you break bad habits and also increase your level of physical fitness.

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