Discover how to effectively kick bad fitness habits to the curb and replace them with positive ones on your health journey.

Kick Your Bad Habits to the Curb on a Fitness Journey

Hey, don’t sock yourself in the face just yet, but you’ve been doing it all wrong! You’re trying to dump your bad habits in a day, and that’s just not how it works, hotshot. Here’s the no-frills reality: it takes time, consistency, and a bit of smart strategy to nix those no-good behaviors. And don’t even think the rules are different for fitness habits. Whether it’s a sneaky nighttime snack fest, or a slug-like dislike for morning cardio, discarding these banes of your fitness routine isn’t done by snapping your fingers. So, put down the donuts, lace up your sneakers, and let’s walk through the science of kicking bad habits to the curb, and how to make it stick.

The Tough Truth About Tossing Out Bad Habits

Karen Ingersoll, our resident shrink armed with her PhD and extensive clinical experience up her sleeve at UVA Health, tells us it’s a waiting game, and times can vary. Don’t shoot the messenger, but according to scientific evidence, you might need to tough it out anywhere from 18 to 254 days—that’s right, no typo—and on an average, it’s 66 days to change those devilish behaviors.

How hard it is to dance the boot-scootin’ boogie with your old bad habits depends mainly on what they are and how committed you are to the new, halo-worthy ones. It’s true, bad habits are stubborn little rascals, but they can be chucked—a high five to that, mate! But your end goal should be more than demolishing the old habits; it should be replacing them with better ones, and we’ve got some top-notch advice to get you there.

Kicking Habits: Do’s and Don’ts

Before you start dancing in your victory lap, let’s be clear on what you shouldn’t do. Our doc Ingersoll advises you not to harshly scold yourself (either verbally or mentally) and expect to swap out the old habits for the new overnight. People love a get-fit-quick scheme, but that’s about as effective as a chocolate teapot for us normal folks.

Ingersoll points out a common fitness folly: You know the type. The couch potato who decides out of the blue to revamp their workout routine and BAM—overnight they’re training for a marathon. It’s all a bit too much too soon, and guess what? You’re on a fast-track to burn out city and the town of giving up.

Making Sense of Smashing Habits

So the key to this habit-hopping madness is to start small and be gradual. Think you can handle that? Doc Ingersoll prescribes a three-tiered approach.

Step one: Imagine Future You. Get a clear picture of the good habits you want, how you want these habits to make you feel, and how darn good you’ll look and feel once you’ve booted the bad ones out. (Pro tip: Align these dreamy behaviors with improving your mental health.)


  • Shaking loose from bad habits isn’t about aggressive leaps, but rather steady strides.
  • Science tells us breaking bad habits can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, with an average of 66.
  • Your grand plan should include replacing old habits with positive ones.
  • On the sayonara-bad-habits journey, start small, make gradual changes, and always keep the long-term picture in mind.

Source Citation: https://www.self.com/story/how-long-does-it-take-to-break-a-habit

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