Could Exercise Be Your Keystone Habit?

Keystone representing the concept of keystone habit

As there are stones and keystones, there are habits and keystone habits.

There are habits, and then there are keystone habits. Today I want to discuss the concept of keystone habits I learned from Charles Duhigg’s book the Power of Habit.

I believe the difference between keystone habits and other habits is important to anyone who wants to make lasting lifestyle changes.


The essence of keystone habits is that not all habits are created equal. Some habits matter more than others, meaning that they have the power to start a chain reaction that changes other habits in their wake – even in unrelated areas of individuals’ lives.

 Exercise is a keystone habit for many people

According to Duhigg, studies have shown that when people start exercising regularly, they start (unconsciously) changing their behaviour in unrelated areas of their lives. They start eating better, become more productive at work, decrease their levels of stress, smoke less and also use their credit cards less.

Now who wouldn’t want an effect like that? And you could get that effect by just starting to exercise regularly once a week.

Food Journaling As A Keystone Habit

What comes to weight loss, there is evidence that food journaling is a keystone habit for many people. Duhigg tells about a study where researchers asked participants – sixteen hundred obese people – to jot down everything they ate once a week.

Despite the fact that it was tough going in the beginning, over time, keeping a food journal started having an effect on people’s eating-related behaviors. People started noticing patterns in their eating, and then started preparing for their mid-morning munchies by always keeping healthy snacks at hand. Other people started using their food journals for planning their future meals, which meant that they would eat healthy meals more often.


I think that the concept of keystone habit is so important because it highlights the fact that not all habits are equally important. When we want to make lasting lifestyle changes – like lose weight – we often turn our lives upside down and make all possible changes at the same time. Your new life probably lasts no more than several weeks or months.

A better strategy is to focus on changing the keystone habits in your like rather than overhauling your whole life.

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