BeneFIT PT’s Guide to Working Out: What is a Habit

When talking to someone who exercises regularly about their fitness journey, you seemingly come away convinced it is just something that they have always done. When pressed, they often say it’s something they…just do.

Oh, there may be a myriad of reasons, weight loss, to stay in shape, for health reasons, “so I can eat and drink whatever I want”, but the reasons always seem to be made in an off-handed manner like “I need to stay fit to keep up with my kids, ha!”

Upon questioning, an avid exerciser will invariably turn the conversation back to you and ask what you do for exercise or how your workout is going. They do an admirable job of supporting whatever reason you have not to exercise…you know the ol’ “yeah it is tough to find the time especially when everyone’s so busy nowadays.” But we always left those conversations thinking that no, the avid exerciser does not understand how hard it is to make exercise a part of your day.

How is it that these people have made regular exercise a habit?

The 21 Day Habit

Everyone’s heard of the 21-day habit.

The theory that anyone can make anything a habit if they just do it for 21 days. Sounds great in theory….doesn’t work in practice.

How did this even become a thing though to set our sights on to achieve habits?

It all started back in the 1950s with a plastic surgeon named Maxwell Martz. Dr. Martz began to observe a trend with his post-op plastic surgery patients. He noted that around the twenty-first day post operation the patient began to accept their new looks.

Similarly, he noted that it would take an average of about 21 days for amputation patients to no longer experience their phantom pain (the perception that they are currently in pain in the portion of the limb that is no longer attached to them).

It wasn’t until 1960 when he took his anecdotal research and observations and wrote a book called Pyscho-Cybernetics.

In the book, Dr. Martz wrote: “…Many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” Notice he states a minimum of 21 days, not the unequivocal definitive 21 days you were led to believe.

Somewhere along the years, that word minimum was lost to the cosmos, and now everyone is set up for failure when their habit is formed within the first 21 days.

Check back next week for our next blog post in our new BeneFIT PT’s Guide to Working Out Blog Series!