The New Year is an excellent time to recommit to a healthy lifestyle, and getting regular exercise is an important part of that equation.
But the statistics are not encouraging: Fewer than half of people who make New Year’s resolutions keep them longer than six months. Every January, would-be fitness buffs flock to the gyms, but soon the initial enthusiasm fades, daily stressors reassert themselves, and making time for physical activity takes a backseat.
Are you determined that this is the year you will stick to your exercise goals? Here are 15 strategies to keep motivation going long after holiday indulgences are a distant memory.
- Make It Attainable: Consult with your doctor or a personal trainer to set realistic goals. The more successful you are with your fitness program, the more you’ll want to stay with it.
- Get a Buddy: Rather than going it alone, consider teaming up with a friend who is also interested in getting fit. You can motivate each other, and on days when you aren’t feeling enthusiastic, knowing your buddy is expecting you at the gym or in the park can help keep you accountable.
- Think Outside the Gym: It isn’t necessary to work out in a gym to get fit, and you may find that other forms of activity are better suited to your preferences, budget, and schedule. Whether you try social dancing, take to the hills for a hike, zen out with an online yoga video, or simply get up from your desk and move around more often, thinking outside the gym can be a great way to counter the exercise doldrums.
- Join a Group: Look for Meetups in your area that focus on physical activity (tennis, golfing, etc.), or sign up for a mem-bership at your local yoga studio or gym. The group atmosphere and social interaction may well be what it takes to keep you coming back.
- Schedule It: Treat your workout just as you would an important meeting on your calendar. Plan ahead and lay out your workout gear in advance to make keeping your exercise appointment easier.
- Mix It Up: If your exercise regime usually consists of cardio, switch things up and try weight training. Adding variety to your workouts staves off boredom and promotes overall fitness.
- Get Inspired: Follow social media accounts and blogs that inspire you to pursue health and fitness. Seeing the success of others will encourage you to continue on your fitness journey.
- Try Technology: Nifty technological tools can help you stick to your fitness goals. These apps and fitness trackers (such as the popular Fitbit) enable you to track your progress, and you can further increase your motivation by competing with friends and family to see who can take the most steps in a day.
- Track It: Record quantifiable measurements of your progress, such as reps completed or steps walked. One study found that exercise app users were more likely to exercise in their leisure time than those who did not track their progress.
- Dial in Your Diet: If your interest in fitness wanes, try adding new, healthful foods to your meals. As you eat more nutritious food (and crowd out the junk), you will be able to avoid the lethargy caused by unstable blood sugar and have more energy for your workout.
- Refocus on Your Why: Do you want to have more energy to play with your kids? Feel more confident in your clothes? Be able to explore the great outdoors? Whatever your goal, remembering why you made the commitment to exercise will motivate you to stay the course.
- Envision Your Future Self: Imagine feeling strong, lean, and comfortable in your body. Research shows that seeing con-tinuity between your present and future self decreases procrastination and improves performance.
- Anticipate Setbacks: This may seem counterintuitive, but realizing that you will not achieve perfection prevents an all-or-nothing mentality. Missing a few workouts doesn’t have to lead to throwing in the towel.
- Reassess Your Goals: Periodically take stock of your progress. As you achieve your fitness goals, set new ones. If you realize some goals were unrealistic, modify them.
- Shift Your Mindset: Rather than seeing exercise as something you do, start seeing it as a part of your identity: You are the kind of person who loves to exercise. This shift in mindset can take getting more exercise from a simple New Year’s resolution to a permanent part of your life.
“Experiencing the Temporally Extended Self: Initial Support for the Role of Affective States, Vivid Mental Imagery, and Future Self-Continuity in the Prediction of Academic Procrastination” by E.C. Blouin-Hudon and T.A. Pychyl, Elsevier, www.ScienceDirect.com, 11/15
“How 9 Health Experts Stick to Their Resolutions” by Locke Hughes, www.WebMD.com
“How to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions—Five Tips from a Health Psychologist” by Fuschia Sirois, www.Newsweek.com, 1/20/17
“Making Your New Year’s Resolution Stick,” American Psychological Association, www.APA.org
“Mobile Exercise Apps and Increased Leisure Time Exercise Activity: A Moderated Mediation Analysis of the Role of Self-Efficacy and Barriers” by L. Litman et al., J Med Internet Res, 8/14/15