Cue, Routine, Reward: How to Develop Healthy Habits

A person plans a healthy menu using a tablet and a notebook.
What’s the key to making healthy habits stick?

How do healthy people stay healthy? They make it easy on themselves. They develop habits that are automatic. No decision-making needed. And what’s the key to making healthy habits stick? Establish a cue, routine and reward. Here are a few of our suggestions.

You know you should exercise consistently, but a lot of obstacles—very much including conflicting habits—prevent you from making it happen. You need to establish a cue, routine, and reward.

Here’s an example:

  • Cue: Monday at 8:30 a.m. is exercise time. Get up, put your exercise clothes on and work out. Don’t schedule anything else, and don’t let anything interrupt you short of an actual emergency.
  • Routine: Exercising at that time.
  • Reward: Staying strong, healthy, and capable as you age. Being able to do things that require physical strength and balance as well as people half your age.

Healthy eating? Here’s a plan.

  • Cues: On Friday, plan next week’s menu; on Saturday, buy groceries; on Sunday, prep food.
  • Routine: Make the above happen and eat the foods you planned.
  • Reward: You are healthy on the inside and out. You feel good and know why.

Jill Strand and Chris Radke are owners and certified trainers at UpLift Guided Fitness in Woodbury.