Whether your goal is to get healthy, to lose weight, to get abs that look great paired with a bikini, or to finally race that race or climb that mountain, fitness probably plays a role in your new year’s resolution. As it should! Sedentary lifestyles and the mass production and marketing of processed foods make it difficult to stay fit. A recent study found that only 8% of people actually keep their resolutions. 8%! Some ivy-league schools have a higher acceptance rate!
There are ways to avoid being a part of the dreaded 92% of the population who peter out somewhere in mid-February. These are scientifically proven tips to help you keep your fitness resolutions in 2016.
1. Define your goal.
“I will work out more!” is not a concrete goal. Pick a specific goal and write it down. For instance: I will work out x times a week on x days. Write down your goal where you can see it every day. Put a sign on your fridge, set reminders on your cell phone, keep a sticky note on your bathroom mirror. Make it “official.” According to a Harvard study, people who actually wrote down their goals were ten times more successful that those who did not.
The Department of Human Health and Services recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week. And aerobic activity doesn’t necessarily mean running on the treadmill: dancing, hiking, swimming, and even gardening or mowing the lawn are all forms of physical activity. Commit to a level of activity that works for you remembering that working out just two days a week is much better than not working out at all.
2. Set a realistic fitness resolution.
“You can do anything you set your mind to!” “No dream is too big!” “If you can dream it, you can do it!” In theory, these often-spout sayings are well-intentioned; however, dreaming too big is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. The new year provides an exciting, fresh start, and resolution- makers who are gung-ho about the future tend to make grandiose plans that are difficult to keep. For instance: many pledge to work out EVERY DAY. When they find this a difficult resolution to maintain, instead of stepping back and setting more reasonable goals, they dub themselves failures and give up altogether. Avoid this trap and set specific, realistic goals.
Example: if you’ve never been a morning person, it’s probably a bad idea to commit to 6:00 am workout sessions. Set goals you are more likely to actually follow.
3. Get Connected.
“In my 10 years of experience evaluating what creates long-term health-and-fitness success, the single most important factor is having a support system.” Wayne Andersen, MD, cofounder and medical director of Take Shape for Life, a nationwide health and lifestyle coaching program based in Owings Mills, Md.
Accountability is crucial when working to maintain a fitness goal, and joining a support group, fitness class, or just scheduling time to meet a friend to work out has the added benefit of social interaction, which is good for overall physical and mental health.
Choosing the wrong accountability partner or group can be detrimental, however. Negative influences do not foster growth. Choose a friend or a social environment that offers support and positivity.
4. Choose fitness activities that interest you.
Some people love to run on the treadmill, because it gives them an opportunity to listen to a great audio book. Others enjoy trying new things, so a gym that offers a variety of fitness classes is ideal for holding their interest. Others love being outside, so hiking or running in nature gives them joy. Choose an activity that interests you! If you hate to run, don’t do it! Consider Zumba or step-aerobics. If you are dreading your workout, you are less likely to stick with it.
Many don’t have the financial means to join a gym or fitness programs in their area. Even if you have no exercise equipment at home, there is no reason you can’t find an activity you enjoy ether inside or outdoors. Many local high schools have open lanes for swimming, free of charge. Parks are open year-round for walking or running. There are a plethora of free online exercise videos available; a google search will help you find world-class teachers who can instruct you in the comfort of your own home.
You can also use your resolution as an opportunity to learn a new activity. Always wanted to take karate? It’s never too late to start. Want to explore salsa or ballroom dancing with your partner? That counts as aerobic activity! Make exercise fun, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
5. Measure your progress.
Nothing motivates a person more than seeing progress being made! Whether your write down your accomplishments in a notebook or use a fancy tracker or online program, seeing visual evidence of your improvement will inspire you to reach new heights. Tracking progress helps you stay consistent, makes you accountable to yourself, and can help you plan your future fitness goals. If you want to assess the shape you’re in, and determine how long it will take you to be ready to participate in a 5K or take a long hike in the woods, tracking your progress gives you the best insight into your overall health. Tracking minutes exercised, heart rates, calories expended, and nutrition will help you feel more in control of your health, which will in turn motivate you to continue living a healthy life.
Should you make a fitness resolution? Absolutely! But take it seriously and do it right. Pick attainable goals and create a fitness plan that optimizes your success.