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The 21-Day Rule: How To Actually Build Long-Term Habits

It’s now December and you know what that means – everyone’s new year’s resolutions will be coming up! Here’s one one rule for you to follow.

From going to the gym to sticking to their diet, most if not everyone in your workplace will be having a fitness-related new year’s resolution one way or another – and maybe you do as well!

Now don’t get us wrong. The first step to solving any problem is to identify it, and you’re already one step ahead by being able to point out what you want to change. However, as exciting and comforting as it is to think of what you want to achieve for 2023, we need to establish your game plan as early as now.


If you want something bad enough you won’t wait. The same applies to starting a fitness journey.

While some of you will want to start fresh in 2023, failure to plan is a plan to fail – and we want to set you up for long-term success!

The “21-Day Rule”

Most of you into self-help probably heard of the 21-Day rule when it takes a minimum of 21 days to build a habit.

Now is this true?

Not really…

While it’s possible for long-term habits to be formed in 21 days, it takes an average of 66 days to build a habit according to a 2009 study. According to this, habits can be formed anywhere between 18 to 254 days.

Long-term success can only happen when we’re able to replace our old bad habits with new habits in line with our goals, and this is especially true when it comes to fitness according to a more recent 2017 study; where habit-based weight loss programs aimed towards behavioral change proved most effective.

Beyond Habits

So is it all about changing bad habits?

While a good start, more is needed to sustain weight loss over the long term unless the root cause for such actions is addressed.

A recent 2021 study looking into weight loss maintenance found just this, wherein it was found that people may relapse into bad habits once they momentarily lose motivation upon exposure to a situation or environment that “triggers” them into relapsing.

Let’s take the example of an alcoholic that stopped drinking after going to a weight loss boot camp. Even when the bad habit is eliminated, it’s very likely that the same person will go back into heavy drinking upon returning home and being exposed to the same environment unless the root cause is addressed.

Creating Long-Term Change

Nothing good comes easy, and your fitness journey is no different. Now here are some rules you need to follow

However, this is not to say that creating long-term behavioral change isn’t realistic. Here are 4 actionable steps / rules you can work on to get one step closer to hitting your 2020 fitness goals:

Rule # 1: Identify The Habits You Want To Change

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Change requires acknowledging a problem, and there’s no shame in admitting potential behaviors/habits holding us back from getting what we want.

You can start on this by identifying what it is you want to achieve, being honest with yourself, and listing down the habits you think are working against you. This can just be for your reference to instill a sense of direction and accountability moving forward.

Rule # 2: Identify Triggers

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Have you fallen off track before and relapsed into old habits?

No worries, it happens to the best of us. What separates those who fail from those who succeed would be who gives up.

To identify your “trigger/s”, you may look back at the times you’ve relapsed into bad habits when your motivation momentarily dipped. This can be due to exposure to anything from events, items, places, or even people. From here you can dig deeper and think of what you felt at the moment to identify potential causes.

Rule # 3: Propose Alternative Behaviors

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Ending bad habits will mean having to replace these with alternatives that move us toward our goals. From the bad habits you identified in step one, think of alternative actions you can implement.

This is especially important when it comes to your nutrition, where you can think of healthier and lower-calorie alternatives to a food or beverage you regularly have.

Love frappes? Try black coffee or a low-fat latte with a zero-calorie sweetener.

Sweets? Try a protein shake.

Fries? Try air-frying potatoes

Fitness is about consistency, which means that the best diet and workout programs would be what you’re able to stick to long-term while still enjoying life.

Rule # 4: Track Down Your Progress

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“The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

– Albert Einstein

This may be a quote you’re already familiar with, and it’s very relevant when trying to hit our fitness goals.

Even with a clear goal, action plan and consistent effort, we can’t accurately tell if we’re making progress when we don’t have a way of tracking changes in our physique and performance (ex. strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, etc) and adjust accordingly.

Numbers don’t lie, and here are some ways you can objectively measure progress to see whether or not you recurrent approach is working:

a. Bodyweight
b. Workout log (sets, reps and weight per exercise done)
c. Total daily caloric and macronutrient intake
d. Girth measurements

Bottom Line

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and we need to actively work toward our goals one day at a time to give us the best chance of success.

It’s unrealistic to think we just need to wait for the new year to get started with our fitness journey and things will run smoothly from there. Instead, we should be acting on this as early as now.

If you’re interested in more and you’d like to set a meeting with us you Contact us at and discover how HoliFit can help your business reach its goals. You can also check out our Facebook page, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube Channel for more information about our services. 

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. To find out how HoliFit can help your business reach its goals through Webinarscontact us today!

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