More than 75 percent of Americans want to get more physically fit, but only 3 percent of them succeed at maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Why is the success rate so low? The most common reasons people give for not exercising or skipping planned workouts are a lack of time and a lack of energy. And the perceived complexity of following a healthy diet is a common reason for not eating right. What conclusion can we draw? Most people fail to maintain a healthy lifestyle because they don’t have the time or energy to fit diet and exercise into their lives consistently.
When trying to improve their health, most people try to force new behaviors into their already busy routines without considering the potential negative impacts. For example, Heather decided to exercise and lose weight as a New Year’s resolution. She committed to hitting the gym for an hour per day after work.
However, Heather’s long workouts at the gym and the extra commuting time made her evenings more hectic. She found herself staying up later to complete her daily tasks, sleeping less, feeling tired at work, and spending less time with her kids. After only a few weeks, she realized the behaviors she was using to pursue her fitness goal weren’t sustainable, so she abandoned her goal and quit going to the gym. This is an example of a crucial concept—friction.
What Causes Fitness Friction?
Friction refers to the inefficient use of time and energy, and it typically occurs when the methods used to achieve a goal cause too much disruption to be sustainable. As the friction in a process increases, the ability to stay motivated tends to decrease. Why? Because the difficulties caused begin to outweigh the beneficial outcomes. For Heather, the difficulty of fitting her workouts into her daily life outweighed the benefits provided by the workouts—so she quit.
The key to developing sustainable fitness habits is eliminating as much friction as possible. This allows you to make the most of your limited time and energy.
Unfortunately, many common exercise programs create massive amounts of friction. For instance, if your diet and exercise plan requires a significant portion of your daily time and energy, you’ll have less ability to pursue other interests. When the pursuit of fitness becomes a barrier to a better life, rather than an enabler, it won’t be sustainable.
How to Beat Friction
The key to creating sustainable diet and exercise habits is to select efficient behaviors that maximize the use of your time and energy. These will be the most repeatable—and repeatable behaviors are more likely to become habits. Even the busiest people can make healthy diet and exercise behaviors part of their everyday routine and significantly enhance their quality of life by following an integrated low-friction fitness system for living a healthy lifestyle—for the long term.