Consistency Leads to Habit
Recent studies have found that exercising at a consistent time may encourage adults with obesity to participate in regular moderate to vigorous physical activity. A small pilot study in which adults with obesity and a low activity level at baseline participated in three exercise arms for 3 weeks each.
The three arms of exercise included consistent morning exercise, consistent evening exercise and exercise during time of choice. At the end of the trial, participants engaged in more physical activity sessions and minutes when assigned to exercise in the morning or evening vs. choosing when to exercise. While most participants preferred to choose their workout time, exercise/physical activity was highest in the morning or evening conditions. Some participants reported that when they had a set time, they felt accountable to be doing exercise, and if they did not do it that day, they felt guilty.
There needs to be larger randomized trials to look at whether consistent timing has a causal impact on physical activity adoption or maintenance. It would also be important to look at mechanisms of action like habit or planning. It would be beneficial to look at potential individual differences that might be useful for optimizing timing prescriptions such as lifestyle factors that may make certain times more or less possible.
Consistent exercise timing could be beneficial for several reasons. Exercising at the same time can be habit-forming and the arrival of exercise time motivational. Planning a particular time to exercise could also help make it a priority and eliminate lack of time as a perceived barrier. This could also be applied to other healthy habits such as drinking water, food prepping, getting adequate sleep, and following a diet plan. Consistency and holding oneself to a schedule could be the key to forming healthy habits.
Schumacher LM, et al. J Phys Act Health. 2021;doi:10.1123/jpah.2021-0135.
Schumacher LM, et al. Obesity. 2019;doi:10.1002/oby.22535