How long does it take to form a habit?

I have written about building good habits in the past – the idea that including lots of little good habits in your day will improve your health.

I’ve read previously that it takes 21 days to build a habit – I’ve been trying to avoid the lifts at work for the last three weeks and have only used them once (I bumped into my boss’ boss at the entrance to the lifts – unavoidable).

So I should be set, right? Apparently not – research by University College London found that the average was 66 days (the actual spread was 18 to 254 days). The time taken depended greatly on what habit the participants were trying to build. Something relatively simple like eating fruit every day or drinking more water were much quicker than a daily run or doing 50 sit ups each morning.

I know that I was thinking a lot less about using the stairs about half way through week two. I guess the advice is to concentrate and be mindful until you don’t have to.

It’s not an exact answer but worth doing. Building these little habits is the fitness equivalent of ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.

Further reading