Tai Chi, Walking & Other Fitness Training: Turning Exercise Into Habit


By Diane Gold

Tai chi, walking, fitness classes, playing baseball, dancing, whatever the physical activity is, we want to make it a habit, if we really think about it.

Defining A HabitA habit is defined as something whose cue causes a behavior that brings a reward, similar to an endorphin rush from the absence of pain, the joy of sex, walking around the lake or the thrill of completing a tai chi session. Yes, it’s nice to go and do a physical fitness routine. And it’s great that we intellectually “know” that it’s good for us. But, it’s superb if we turn our exercise into a habit.

When a little itch (the cue) causes us to go do tai chi or go walk or go to the gym (the behavior) because we want that amazing endorphin rush (the reward) that follows from the behavior in which we have engaged, we have created a habit. And we can see it’s not the exercise itself that is the habit; it’s experiencing the feeling that follows it.

It’s difficult to see sometimes because we enjoy the exercise. Just doing it doesn’t mean it’s a habit. If it doesn’t become a habit, our dedication to it will probably go away.


[It’s easier to see with drugs or alcohol. Look at taking drugs, for a minute. The taking of the drug is the precursor to the pleasure we get from taking the drug. We usually don’t separate that behavior from the reward, since the actual reward comes so quickly after the behavior.
It’s a little easier to see with drinking alcohol and its reward. Since taking a drink doesn’t give the physical reward instantly, we have time to realize that it’s not the drink but the reward that follows that causes the habit of drinking. It should be noted that the alcoholic is busy socializing or being a recluse, but waiting for the effects of the drink, from the moment of the intake of the first drink.

These are the opinions of this writer, from study and from experience.]


The rewards we experience can be “how in touch with ourselves we feel” from tai chi, how good our body looks  from weight bearing exercise, how many ounces we may lose because our appetite has decreased from taking a walk, how sexy we feel from being healthier and more mobile.
Wouldn’t it be supremely wonderful if we loved doing our exercise as much as we loved our favorite dessert?

April 27, Saturday, at 10:00 am.


World Tai Chi and Chi Kung Day is April 27, Saturday, at 10:00 am.

There are events all over the world. It’s free and fun, for newbies or experts.
If you are in Boca Raton, I’m coordinating the Sanborn Square event, my 14th year in Boca. I would be honored to have you attend. Spread the word!

If you’ll be elsewhere, I will look for an event for you if you contact me.
Click HERE for a map to the event in Boca.



All studies about habits confirm that the production of dopamine has been connected to reward and motivation. According to Journal Of Neurophysiology, 1998, July, Volume 80, abstract by W. Schultz, it provides a teaching signal for new behaviors.

Dopamine PathwaysAccording to much research, the centers in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the middle brain near the hippocampus, produce the dopamine that is connected with reward signals.

There is another production center in the substantia nigra, also near the hippocampus, whose underproduction is related to movement issues such as Parkinson’s Disease.

I believe, in terms of reward and motivation, we can learn to influence the regulation of hormones such as these by faithfully repeating 1-step strategies that create new habits.

It should be noted that dopamine production is hugely complex and that self-correction for some of its functions would be a giant breakthrough.


Let’s look at the wide variety of ways people exercise.

There are all the ball games: volleyball, baseball, softball, basketball, football, racquetball, soccer, tennis, golf, croquet.

Then we have the mind/body group: tai chi and other martial arts, chi kung, yoga, dance, meditation. I know, you may be saying.

“How can we consider meditation an exercise?”

Chi Kung MeditationHere’s the answer. We usually assume a simple position for meditation whether it be seated or standing. This physical posture consumes calories/energy/chi in order to maintain the position, even though we are not moving on the outside.

Then there are a slew of other activities that people do like walking, bike riding, running, weight training, machine training, fitness classes, boating, swimming.


Many of the activities not listed in the mind/body category can very definitely be categorized as training for the mind and body, together. It truly depends upon how the training is done.

When we repeat a system over and over again, we gain a better understanding. When we become adept at a particular physical activity, enough so that we become one with the activity, it becomes mind/body training. In 1980, a then 37-year-old comedian, Chevy Chase, was giving a golf lesson to a 20 year-old caddy in a movie called Caddyshack. He said,

“There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it. Stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”

In 1980, Eastern philosophy in a United States comedy sounded like comedy, rather than a serious lesson. Chevy’s words above and his saying,

“Hear nothing, feel nothing,”

echoed what happens when we become one with what we are doing. This is one-pointed mind and can happen when we repeat our lessons, whatever they are. (Here’s the scene: youtube.com/watch?v=LGKkmpbhv9k.)

In 2013, it is fairly common for people to meditate and do yoga. Some practitioners do the work as it was meant to be done: as a long term study. Most people just want a quick fix, that quick endorphin rush or the stress relief achieved from reduction of the stress hormone, cortisol, and turn their activities into drive-through exercise, similar to drive-through food. It happens with tai chi and chi kung, too, age old traditions. Schools create quick fix certifications whereby no true foundational learning takes place, and students are allowed to drop in and out of classes as if this method is preferred


PinballMeditating WomanRunning WomanIn the fast-paced world, it is rare that people hunker down and train in one area for any length of time. We usually engage in pinball education, meaning we don’t focus on one type of exercise before we jump to the next one. This type of learning reduces the chance that the exerciser will turn the training into a habit. It just stays as entertainment or the quick fix.

It takes a lot of effort to stick with any one exercise long enough so that we get any proficiency at it. If we do, we will start to get the itch (the cue) to exercise which causes us to train (the behavior), so that we can achieve the reward of personal growth. That’s turning exercise into habit.  It takes knowing ourselves which we usually get from studying one exercise for a while.

Part of learning the skills to an exercise is developing the attitude necessary to be part of it. Otherwise, we’re just entertaining ourselves. Entertainment training is good.  Essence training is better, as I see it.


1)  Consider whether you want entertainment or to add a skill to your life. (Remember Neo’s thrill in the Matrix when he had mastered kung fu in a flash? True satisfaction.)

2)  Once you know which you would like, proceed with that knowledge.

3)  Pick a type of exercise you’d like to do.

4)  Engage in it every other day for as long as you want. When you think about stopping, ask yourself why.

5)  Notice whether your conclusion in 1) has changed. Sometimes, just considering a question such as 1) leads us to new, essential territory.

Some of us like to stay free, and be open to change the type of exercise we do on a regular basis.  Others of us like to dig in to one type of training. As long as it works to support our lives, it’s a good thing.


Please leave  a comment and LIKE.


Diane Gold, Founder of Warriors of Weight, Turning Habits Into Health, is a mentor in tai chi, kung fu and meditation, a music, fitness and stress expert, dedicated mom, studying plant-based nutrition.

She has studied people’s duration patterns in physical fitness and mind/body exercise through survey of over 1,000 students in her kung fu/tai chi school. She says,

“Any exercise we do is great. It rejuvenates us and makes us better people. Many of us have been introduced to a variety of activities with the idea that we would become well-rounded. This is good thinking on one hand, but we often miss out on becoming adept through chaos.

“The way we have been raised depends upon the philosophy of our families and caretakers as we grew up. They all meant to enrich our lives.

“Being too strict is repressive. Being too permissive omits discipline. Some families let us jump from one sport to another because it is good to be free in our youth. Others decide we will train in one sport so that we learn focus and how to strive but may start us at age two.

“However we were raised, we have the opportunity now to make a choice. Whatever we decide is OK. It has to fit our lifestyle. It has to support our growth. As long as we keep a good, hearty amount of exercise in our daily lives, we will meet our responsibility and fortify the life that we live.”

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