Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter for The New York Times and the author of The Power of Habit. He is a winner of the National Academies of Sciences, National Journalism, and George Polk awards. A graduate of Harvard Business School and Yale College, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.
Charles Duhigg: What studies say the number one best way to start an exercise habit is to give yourself a reward that you genuinely enjoy. So most people, when they start exercising, this is what they do. They say, "I'm going to go to the gym and my reward is going to be that I went to the gym," or, "I'm going to let myself have some kale chips or a salad or something." Something they don't actually enjoy. But a habit is a cue, a routine and a reward. That reward has to actually be rewarding for it to develop neurological patterns.
So here's what studies say is the number one way to start an exercise habit, eat a piece of chocolate after you work out. And what's amazing about this is that--if you like chocolate and chocolate is genuinely rewarding--what's amazing is that, and I did this myself so I can attest to this, you will only eat that piece of chocolate for like the first week and a half. You'll set up a cue, running clothes by your bed or you lace up your shoes before breakfast, something to trigger the behavior. You go on your run or you work out then you come home and eat a piece of chocolate or right after the workout you need a piece of chocolate. And your brain will begin encoding. Your brain will eventually enjoy exercise for exercise sake, right, endorphins and endocannabinoids will create a sense of reward, but it doesn't know that at first. You have to trick your brain into forming this habit by giving it chocolate or something it genuinely values and enjoys. And after a week and a half your brain will have learned that it likes the intrinsic rewards of exercise. You won't even want to eat the chocolate anymore because you'll feel healthy right? We all know this that, like, once you start exercising you eat better because you feel so good, but at first you have to trick your neurology into accepting the pattern. And the answer is, eat a piece of chocolate.
Directed & Produced by
Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd