How to Build a Skeleton of Healthy Habits

At Fitness Finders, we develop “programs, services and incentives to help shape America’s future.”  One of the goals we have for our programs is to keep them simple.  Simple works best for parents and teachers trying to fit something new into their daily routine.  Simple works best for the children who are trying to create habits that will change the way they live each day for the rest of their lives.  As it turns out, we also need to be working on being specific.

According to Tony Schwartz, author of “Be Excellent At Anything”, a study found that asking a group to exercise once for 20 minutes in the next week had a compliance rate of 29%.  Educating a second group about the dangers of heart disease before the request increased compliance to 39%.   A third group was asked to exercise at a certain time, on a specific day, at a designated place.  This group had a 91% compliance rate.

This is because brain power takes energy, but once the decisions have been made about when, where, and how, all we have to do is decide to show up.  Again, in the book cited above, Schwartz quotes Alfred North Whitehead:

“It is a profoundly erroneous truism…that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing.  The precise opposite is the case.  Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”

One of the great things about Mileage Club is automaticity.  The children don’t have to decide anything, just show up.  As we help them develop healthy habits, we need to help them succeed during the development stage.  Regardless of how we measure success, showing up is a necessary step.  Habit formation allows children to behave in healthy and positive ways without it being an effort, because it is as automatic as brushing their teeth.  If we are going to succeed in shaping America’s future, not only will we provide structure for healthy behaviors now, but we will help build the scaffolding for healthy behaviors for the rest of a child’s life.     Just like the human body is supported by and protected by its bony skeleton, these habits will be the framework to support and protect our youth throughout their lives.

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