So, you’re thinking about signing up for a 30-day fitness challenge?
Whether you saw a reel on Instagram promising to shed belly fat and build abs in a month (we wish it was that easy!) or you’ve come across a new programme on bodybuilding.com that will have you ripped like thor before your birthday, 30-day challenges come in many forms.
But, are they all that they promise to be? And, do they really work?
In this blog, we’ll explore the science and psychology behind healthy habits and weight loss, and how 30-day fitness challenges fit into the equation.
These challenges can range from intense workout plans to gentler approaches and can focus on a variety of goals such as weight loss, muscle building, or improving overall fitness levels and sometimes even purely just improving general day-to-day healthy habits.
Many people find that starting a 30-day fitness challenge can be a great way to kickstart a fitness goal or reinvigorate their motivation. It can be a way to try out a new workout plan or diet and see what works for them. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a 30-day challenge is not a long-term solution for achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To see lasting results, you need to make exercise and healthy eating a consistent part of your daily routine.
Why do people like 30-day challenges?
One reason that people enjoy 30-day fitness challenges is that they offer a clear and structured plan to follow. This can be helpful for people who struggle with motivation or are unsure of where to start with their fitness journey. The challenge provides a set of specific goals to work towards and can be a great way to track progress with weekly and daily habits to tick off which can compound to see results over time.
Another reason that people enjoy 30-day challenges is that they often offer a sense of community and support. Many challenges are run online, with participants sharing their progress and tips with each other. This can be a great source of motivation, encouragement and can help people feel like they are part of a supportive community.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that a 30-day challenge is not a magic solution for achieving your fitness goals. Building muscle and losing weight takes time and effort, and it’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself. Just because you see a challenge on social media promising quick results, don’t feel like a failure if you don’t drop 30 pounds in 30 days, this just isn’t realistic or sustainable for many people and is purely a marketing hook to entice you in. We should always think of challenges to kickstart and create healthy habits which can potentially be sustainable long term.
Can you really make a difference in 30 days?
When starting a 30-day fitness challenge, it’s important to focus on the long-term benefits rather than just the short-term results. While you may see some changes in your body after just a few weeks, it takes time and consistent effort to build up visible muscle and see lasting weight loss.
The short term benefits
In the short term, sticking to a 30-day fitness challenge can have a few positive effects on your mind and body. You may experience increased energy levels, improved mood, and better sleep. You may also notice some changes in your body, such as increased fullness in your muscles due to muscle glycogen and reduced body fat. These short-term benefits can be a great motivator to continue your fitness journey.
The long-term benefits
However, the real power of a 30-day fitness challenge is in its ability to kickstart healthy habits that can be sustained for the long term. The science of change suggests that it takes about 66 days for a new behaviour, like exercise, to become a habit. By following a structured workout plan and diet for 30 days, you can begin to establish healthy habits that will support your fitness goals in the long term.
To make the most of a 30-day fitness challenge, it’s important to focus on building sustainable habits that you can continue long after the challenge is over. This may involve gradually increasing the intensity and frequency of your workouts instead of having the “All or nothing” mentality where you end up going all in, then burning out because it’s just not realistic or sustainable for you long term so be mindful of this if you’re thinking about diving into one anytime soon.
The science of change and building healthy habits
As mentioned earlier, according to research it takes an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become a habit. However, building healthy habits isn’t just about following a plan for a set period.
Several strategies can help you succeed in making lasting changes to your lifestyle.
1. Set achievable goals
It’s important to set specific, achievable goals for yourself. Rather than making vague statements like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be fit,” focus on setting specific goals that you can measure and track. For example, “I will exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week” or “I will eat a serving of vegetables with every meal.”
2. Celebrate small victories
It’s important to track your progress and celebrate your successes. Keep a journal or use a fitness app to track your workouts and diet and celebrate each small victory along the way. This can help keep you motivated and stay on track by driving positive confirmation bias. This is also where having a coach can really help keep you accountable by giving you weekly feedback, goals and intentions to aid in your progress going forward.
3. Surround yourself with support
Share your goals and progress with friends, family, or a fitness community online. Ask for help when you need it and offer support to others who are also working towards their fitness goals. This provides a valuable source of motivation and encouragement especially if you are connected to a community of like-minded people all striving towards something.
The psychology of weight loss and key challenges
In addition to the science of change, the psychology of weight loss and healthy habits can also play a role in the success of a 30-day fitness challenge.
One of the key challenges when it comes to weight loss and healthy habits is maintaining motivation and consistency over time. It’s easy to start off with a burst of enthusiasm, but it’s much harder to stick to a fitness plan for the long term.
One way to overcome this challenge is to focus on the benefits of exercise and healthy eating, rather than just the weight loss or outcome. Research has shown that regular exercise can improve mood, reduce stress and boost self-esteem. By focusing on these benefits, you can maintain your motivation and stay on track with your fitness goals.
Another strategy is to break your goals down into small, manageable steps. Rather than trying to overhaul your entire lifestyle in one fell swoop, focus on making small, gradual changes that you can stick to over time. Want to lose 10kgs? Start by losing the first 1kg then rinse and repeat. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and increase your chances of success.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, the science and psychology of healthy habits and weight loss can play a crucial role in the success of a 30-day fitness challenge.
By focusing on building sustainable habits, tracking your progress, and surrounding yourself with support, you can increase your chances of success and see lasting results from your fitness efforts.
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- The science of change: Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potss, H. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009.
- The psychology of weight loss and healthy habits: Williams, G. M., & Ford, M. C. (2018) The role of motivation in exercise and weight loss. Current obesity reports, 7(3) 231-239.
- Konrad, B., & Engelen, L. (2012) The psychology of weight loss: A review of theories and strategies. Journal of Obesity, 2012.
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