Have you ever been told it takes 28 days to form a new habit? Tamara Smith from St Mary’s Memorial School in South Australia decided to test this out herself last year, and now walks every day.

Developing a healthy habit: Being active for 28 days

I had read somewhere that it takes 28 days to develop a habit. So, over the Christmas break last year, I decided to commit myself to being active every day for at least 28 days in a row so that I could develop a healthy habit.

I started by walking with my dog every day for 30 minutes. I could not believe how unfit I had allowed myself to become! I was breathless and my legs got achy – this was ridiculous!

Five years ago I was running, riding or walking to work every day. Then a few events occurred that brought this to a halt. I injured my knee; we got a second car, taking away my need to get to work by leg power; I changed workplace which increased my stress levels and workload. Five years later I had put on 25 kilograms and had become unfit.

It had gotten to a point where my knees and feet were aching simply because of my weight and lack of fitness. Generally I felt lethargic and too tired to do anything. Then last year I had a health scare – a lump was discovered in my uterus and I had to have a hysterectomy. The lump was benign – thank God – and recovery after surgery took longer than I expected.

So as the Christmas holidays approached I decided to make a positive change. I put on my walking shoes and hit the pavement, dog in tow. As the weeks progressed I noticed improvements. I wasn’t as breathless and was able to walk for longer. I loved being outside and my dog looked forward to our walks more than me.

We had a couple of rainy days – I walked in it anyway, but left my dog at home not wanting to subject her to it. When it kept raining I decided to do some online fitness classes in our garage. I found some great HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts on YouTube which incorporated some toning exercises. Again, to start with I couldn’t even do one push-up and struggled to get through one 25 minute class without hitting pause a number of times to recover from a set. Over a couple of weeks, however, I really noticed improvement, even managing some full push-ups.

I had days, especially in the beginning, when I felt too tired to be bothered being active. I had told my family what I was doing and my 13-year-old would bounce into the house at the end of the day and ask, ‘Have you gone for a walk today Mum?’

I would say, ‘I’m resting today – I’m too tired/sore.’

He would respond, ‘Come on Mum! It takes 28 days to form a habit remember!’ He would pull me up off the couch and encourage me by riding or scootering along beside me.

I ended up getting my 28 days of activity in a row and from that point on I really felt I could not end the day properly if I hadn’t done something active. This concept of 28 days to form a habit seemed to have worked.

When the new school year arrived I carried this mindset with me. When we went on Year 6 Camp I decided to do everything the children were doing maintaining my wish to be active every day. As a consequence this is one of the best camps I went on, simply because I was all-in. And the children enjoyed watching the Assistant Principal falling off the surf board as much as they did themselves.

Doing something active every day has improved my fitness and I have lost 10 kilograms, fitting back into clothes that had become too tight. My feet are not aching anymore and my knees are much less painful. I have also found that the restless legs I sometimes suffer at night have disappeared. And best of all I feel fitter, healthier and less lethargic.

Besides having my family’s encouragement I also used a fitness tracker that would give little digital ‘stickers’ for days of activity completed. I am diversifying my activities a little more now including yoga, bike riding and swimming. The free YouTube fitness classes have been a great find – there is a lot of diversity out there so I was able to find something I enjoyed, that catered for my ability level. As well as a small number of regular walking routes, my dog and I have discovered lots of beautiful places to walk. I have even lashed out and bought some fitness attire that I love, which motivates me even more.

So if you are keen to find something new to do and be motivated enough to stick to it just remember, it takes 28 days to develop a habit.

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