How to Stick to Your New Year’s Fitness Resolutions
Many people make exercise and a healthier diet a part of their goals for the New Year. But getting started and keeping at this goal can be difficult, especially for older folks who haven’t been very active in recent years. It’s common for the initial enthusiasm to fizzle out and for the demands of daily life to eat away at the resolve to exercise. The good news is that there are achievable ways to stick to your New Year’s fitness resolutions.
Set realistic goals
Setting unrealistic expectations about exercise will likely result in frustration and abandoning your fitness routine. The first step to achieving your fitness goals is to identify what you want to accomplish and recognize the reason why you’ve made the goals. “Having a process in place with setting the goal, knowing why you are setting the goal, and then how you will work toward your goal will enhance your effectiveness on reaching these goals,” says sports psychologist Hilary Cauthen.
Start out with baby steps
The Harvard Health Newsletter recommends that once you’ve decided on your long-term goal, break it down into achievable, monthly targets. For example, if your ultimate goal is to walk for 30 minutes five days a week, as medical experts recommend, the newsletter advises, “during the first month, focus on walking three days a week for at least 10 minutes or longer each time. During the second month, walk an additional day per week (so you’re up to walking four days a week). Add another day in the third month. Then, every two weeks, extend each walking session by five minutes until you reach your goal.”
Maintain your motivation
Once you’ve started your fitness routine and are working toward the goals you’ve set, the next challenge is sticking to your plan. Daily life presents many reasons to put off exercising, and rationalizations are easy: I’m busy, I’m tired, it’s raining, missing one day won’t matter.
To maintain the motivation to exercise regularly, a variety of approaches will help transform your attitude toward exercise and ultimately change your behavior:
- Focus on finding the intensity and length of exercise that you’re capable of performing. This step will
- Keep making small, incremental improvements as you slowly work toward your goals.
- Make it fun. Exercise shouldn’t become a task that you dread. Make it one of the highlights of your day by enjoying exercising with a friend or your dog. Explore new places and meet new people. The more you enjoy exercise, the more likely it will become a permanent habit and an activity that you look forward to each day.
- Find simple ways to incorporate extra exercise into your normal routine. For example, if your goal is to walk more, park in spots farther away from your office or stores. Take stairs instead of elevators.
- Use habit stacking. If you’re having trouble incorporating exercise into your daily routine, try exercising before or after one of your established habits. For example, if you’re goal is to walk 30 minutes a day, start taking a walk so that it ends just before your normal lunchtime.
- Keep a daily exercise log. Each day, write down what you did (for example, walked 20 minutes), where you did it, how you felt, and anything else that matters to you. Add in your scheduled rest days. If you take other days off, include those in your log, and write down the reason why you didn’t exercise, such as you had a cold or were traveling. The log will show you how you’re progressing, whether you’re falling behind, and where you may need to make changes.
- Reward yourself. Whether it’s a symbolic slap on your own back, a victory lap when you’ve reached a new plateau, or treating yourself to a meal, find small ways to celebrate achieving your incremental goals and your ultimate goal.
These steps will help you modify your behavior so that exercise will soon become a part of your daily routine.
Count your steps with the free Heart Club App
If your fitness goal is to walk more, a good way to track your progress and stay motivated is to count your steps. Heart Club, our app developed by our founder and a cardiologist trained at the Mayo Clinic, includes a step counter that helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This all-in-one app helps you track your activity, check your blood pressure, and have access to important medical data — all on your phone. Learn how Heart Club can help you make walking a part of your daily fitness goals.