How long does it take for people to develop?

How long does it take to develop good habits - so that you automatically look good naked?

Good habits are the key to having a dream figure.

They make the change easy for you.

The right habits will give you progress on “autopilot”.

You are eating the right thing. Exercise regularly.

Without thinking too much about it. That's the magic of habit in action.

How long does it take for something you do to become a habit? 21 days, they say. But is that really true or should you be a little more patient?

It's like this: Those who start with exaggerated expectations often throw in the towel in frustration even when they are actually well on course.

This article is there to prevent that from happening to you. These are the topics:

  • No more fog in bags: what are good habits?
  • The Psychology of Change: How Long Does It Take to Develop Good Habits?
  • From theory to practice: How you can transform your habits - and your body - even more easily.

We are also putting the 21-day myth to the test. Let's take a look at the current study situation.

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What are good habits?

Most of what we do every day we do without conscious planning.

This is the main characteristic of habits:

You are making an unconscious decision.

And this creates unconscious behavior.

Here is a typical example.

Perhaps after leaving your apartment or parking your car you have asked yourself whether you really have locked the door?

So you're back only to find that you've locked the door. But with the best will in the world, you can't remember that.

Why is that?

You locked the door out of habit.

You have done it so many times that it now happens unconsciously. Fully automatic.

Habits are a curse and a blessing at the same time.

  • Bad habits prevent success. Because they trigger counterproductive behavior that you are often not even aware of.
  • But good habits are your allies. They help you to transform your body not only in the short term, but for a lifetime.

The good news is:

You can replace any bad habit with a good one.

For example, change your diet. Or regular strength training.

Because every behavior you do again and again deliberately becomes a stable habit.

Probably there are few things easier than keeping up a good habit:

Maintaining habits is easy as pie.

There is always a trigger for a habit: It can be linked to an environment, time, TV program, person, but also to noises, smells or feelings.

If you have a healthy morning routine - maybe you start with a green smoothie and then go to workout - then you've made sticking to it extra easy.

And if you find that you've been following some bad habits that you want to change, then you need two things above all: mindfulness and a little patience.

Because time is your ally in developing good habits.

How long does it take to develop good habits?

It is said that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. But is that really true?

Current studies seem to question the 21-day myth.12

Let's get to the bottom of this. Psychologists have researched exactly how long it really takes to develop good habits - with surprising results.

But first we go on a voyage of discovery to the mysterious origin of the “21-day rule”. In doing so, we reveal the secret of why people are often not more satisfied with their appearance after cosmetic surgery - even if the result is objectively good.

Where does the 21-day rule come from?

Why does everyone talk about 21 days when it comes to changing habits? Without being able to name any scientific evidence for the “magic 21”?

There are two main things that play a role in my world:

The 21 days sound credible and the number is memorable.

In addition, the order of magnitude coincides with our own experience that it is not a question of DAYS until behavior becomes a habit, but rather a question of WEEKS.

Anyone who knows the 21-day rule will talk about it.

Anyway, I did. Here too, in my early blog articles.

(In my VERY early blog articles ... * cough *)

Anyone who deals with personal development sooner or later inevitably comes across the 21-day rule. Because most writers and authorities teach them.

My thesis is as follows:

We heard them from our mentors, adopted them and passed them on.

But why exactly 21 days - why not 20 or 30?

Presumably, the 21-day rule goes back to the work of Dr. Maxwell Maltz back.

Maltz wrote "Psycho-Cybernetics" in the 1960s, an excellent book that deals with the psychology of self-image.

Psycho-cybernetics has been sold countless millions of copies and has not lost much of its popularity today. Because most of the ideas that Maltz conveys are just as valid today as they were then.

Maxwell Maltz was a cosmetic surgeon who observed something amazing through his work.

Immediately after cosmetic surgery, his patients were often still dissatisfied with their appearance.

He attributed this phenomenon to the self-image of his patients. Only when the self-image changes does the feeling also change.

In his book he writes that most of his patients get used to their new appearance "within 21 days" after a surgical procedure on the face.

Even if, unfortunately, some of them never got used to this.

He also observed phantom pain "within 21 days" in people who had limbs amputated.

Maxwell Maltz does not speak explicitly of habits. But his thoughts and ideas have undoubtedly influenced many of the authors and coaches who came after him.

The thought that they applied his 21-day observation to the habit-forming model seems plausible.

While Maxwell Maltz's recommendations are based on his own observations and theses, science has caught up in recent decades.

Today we know that even in old age the human brain is able to establish new connections and continuously adapt and change.

In practice, these results from brain research meant that the 21-day concept of changing habits remained a topic of discussion.

New study shows: that's how long it really takes to develop good habits

Strictly speaking, it doesn't matter how exactly the 21-day idea came about.

If you want to change your body - change it sustainably - then two things are particularly important:

  1. You'll learn how to develop good habits so that you can get (and stay) healthy and fit with ease.
  2. You start the change with realistic expectations - and stop getting ready if it takes longer than you thought.

I will go into point one below. First, let's talk about how long it takes to turn good behavior into good habits.

In fact, researchers in a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology looked at just that.1

The psychologists conducted their study as follows:

  • They recruited 96 volunteers.
  • Each test person had to choose an activity from the areas of eating, drinking or activities - for example, eating a piece of fruit, drinking a glass of water or doing 50 sit-ups.
  • The study participants should then carry out this new behavior every day in the same context - for example after breakfast.
  • They reported to the scientists each day whether they had performed the behavior and how “automatic” it felt to them.

The researchers made a fascinating observation:

The new behavior becomes a little more independent with each passing day.

So far so good. And it goes even further: this behavioral automation does not increase to infinity.

At some point the automation reaches a maximum and the habit doesn't get any stronger.

Now it's getting exciting, because of course the researchers also measured when this point in time was reached:

It took the subjects between 18 and 254 days to develop a new habit.

So sometimes it is very possible to develop a stable good habit in just 21 days. In most cases, however, it takes more than 21 days for a new behavior to become an unconscious automatism.

In addition, the scientists observed large differences between the study participants.

It didn't just depend on the test person, but also on the type of habit:

Simple behaviors become a habit faster than complex ones.

Easily implementable things like “drink a glass of water in the morning” can actually become automatism in 21 days.

For more complex activities like “do a pre-dinner workout”, it appears that the brain takes significantly longer to develop a stable habit. In the study, it was an average of 90 days in this case.

It also makes a difference whether we want to “overwrite” an old habit from our childhood with a new one - or develop a completely new habit according to the “green meadow” principle.

Now 18 to 254 days is quite a long period of time. How should we use these study results to calibrate our expectations? Well, the researchers make another statement:

On average, it takes 66 days to develop a new habit.

On this basis, it makes more than sense to formulate the good old "21-day" rule a little more precisely:

“Developing a new habit takes AT LEAST 21 days. Usually it takes three times as long, sometimes longer. "

Incidentally, the total duration wasn't the only eye opener in this study.

Why the first 21 days still count ...

Head of Studies Dr. Philippa Lally and her team draw two other significant conclusions:

  • The first few weeks decide: The more continuously you repeat a new behavior in the first days and weeks, the faster you develop an automatism. This means that even if the deep anchoring of a behavior only reaches its maximum in 2 to 3 months, you have already overcome the biggest hurdle by sticking to it for 21 days.
  • Forgot once = never: The researchers also observed that skipping the activity once did not adversely affect habit development. So good news for those of us who have been perfectionists so far.

Hey, everyone skips a training session or treats themselves to a meal that deviates from the plan. That's not bad.

It would only be bad then to throw in the towel. And even prolonged abstinence would only mean that you would have increased the time to develop good habits. Expressed differently:

You haven't failed as long as you don't give up.

In the next section, you'll learn how to make it easy for yourself to mold good behavior into good habits.

4 tips for good habits that will transform your body automatically

The topic of good habits has been with us here at MarathonFitness for a number of years.

Here are some tried and tested tips to help you develop and maintain new automatisms that transform your body almost automatically:

  • This is how you change your diet - without overwhelming yourself. Sometimes changing counterproductive habits seems like a battle against windmill wheels. Many people fall into a psychological trap. In this article you will learn how to replace (old) habits with new, good ones.
  • The Seinfeld method. “Don't break the chain” is the motto of this simple concept. It has already helped numerous people who stayed at it and many clients to develop healthy routines - or, for example, to quickly pick up speed again after a break from training due to illness or vacation. Try it!
  • 5 new dietary rules that every stickler should know. What are “good habits” in a balanced diet? If you don't know where to start, consider one of these five.
  • What does an effective exercise routine look like? It depends on how much time you have - of course. In this Instagram post I give you a useful rule of thumb that you can use as a guide if you want to make optimal training progress. Need more details? In my book Looking Good Naked you will find the right training plans for beginners and advanced users.


The right habits are a secret weapon in changing your body. They make it easy for you to stay tuned because they can give you progress on autopilot.

That's why it goes in Looking Good Naked Power Kitchen much more than plans and recipes. A major focus is on habits.

If you want to develop new habits or replace counterproductive ones with good ones, you need two things above all: awareness and perseverance.

The first three weeks are crucial, after that it becomes increasingly easier because behavior becomes more and more of a habit.

On average, 66 days are enough to develop a stable habit, sometimes 21 days are enough, but sometimes it takes longer.

Here, too, continuity beats perfection. In other words, that means: The time you didn't make it doesn't count. What counts is the time after - that is, the one that you stick with and move on.

Question:Name one of your good habits that is particularly helpful when you stick with it. How did you develop it? Is there a new habit that you want to build up over the next few weeks and months? If yes, which? Write a comment.

Photos in the article “good habits”: © Jacob Lund, Artmim, Indypendenz.

  1. Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modeling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998-1009. [↩] [↩]
  2. Armitage, Christopher. (2005). Can the Theory of Planned Behavior Predict the Maintenance of Physical Activity ?. Health psychology: official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association. 24. 235-45. 10.1037 / 0278-6133.24.3.235. [↩]

Category: Fitness with M.A.R.K., MotivationTags: sticking to it, success, habits, life changing, psychology, bastard, invisible scripts, science