One of the keys to creating a new habit is to actually start doing what you want to be a habit. If you want to get fit, you have to start working out. If you want to lose weight, you have to start eating healthy.
But the bigger challenge is sticking with a new behavior long enough for it to become a part of your lifestyle.
That's the problem the Escape Plan, a new challenge launched today by Strava--the go-to tool for 44 million cyclists, runners, and fitness enthusiasts to record activities, track stats, and compare results with others--seeks to address.
The Escape Plan is a four-week, multisport challenge that encourages people to engage in some form of physical activity at least five times a week. (So far, more than 700,000 people have signed up.)
All you need do is log 15 minutes of any one of 32 different activities -- running, biking, yoga, walking, stretching, swimming, lifting, etc. -- to get credit for the day. And you can choose a different activity every day; the point is to simply be active for 15 minutes.
Do that five times a week for four weeks, and being more active should become a regular part of your lifestyle: The company's research shows that people who upload to Strava an average of five times per week end up with twice as many "active weeks" per year than the people who upload two times per week.
The key is to start small. And often.
Many see Strava as a tool for avid fitness enthusiasts, making the Escape Plan a way for Strava to engage a broader user base.
But CEO James Quarles simply sees it as an extension of Strava's main mission.
"Our goal is to connect athletes to what motivates them, and find their personal best," James says. "With a challenge like the the Escape Plan, we hope to spark habit formation, encourage people to engage in fun activities for 15 minutes a day, and let people change up their routines. It's not only healthy to switch up your routine. It's also fun."
Strava's research also shows that high-frequency, low-intensity exercise -- you don't have to work out hard, just often -- helps people form lasting exercise habits and stay active over the long-term, especially when they vary their activity types.
In fact, the less restrictive the better: If one day you don't feel like jogging, you can stretch. Or lift. Or go for a bike ride. Or ...
The key isn't what you do, it's that you do something active.
Because that's how habits form.
Research shows that people who pursue two different activity "types" per week end up with twice as many active weeks over the course of a year than those who focus on a single activity. People who engage in four different activity types per week end up with three times as many active weeks than those who focus on one activity.
And then there's the social aspect: Over 90 percent of people who set a public goal on Strava are still active nine months later.
Think of it as the Seinfeld method for staying active. Years ago, Jerry decided the only way to write better jokes was to write every day. So he got a large wall calendar, one that showed the entire year. He hung it in a place where he couldn't miss seeing it. And every day, once he had accomplished his task, he put a red X over that date.
As Seinfeld told Brad Isaac:
After a few days, you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt.
Your only job is to not break the chain.
With the Escape Plan, your only job is to not break the chain of five active days a week for four weeks.
"We want to be the center of connected fitness, whether it's outdoor, indoor, or virtual," James says. "But at the same time, to make it seamless -- which is why the average user spends 50 minutes being active for every one minute they use Strava."
Especially good habits.
Being just a little more active will help you live longer. A little moderate cardio can improve your mood for up to 12 hours afterward. Strength training increases cognitive function and reduces anxiety. (If you're not sure how to start getting stronger, here's a simple primer.)
All of which means you owe it to yourself to be more active: A little cardio, a little stretching, a little stretching or core work--whatever activity you enjoy.
You'll live longer. And perform better every day.
Which might make those 15 active minutes the most important part of your day.