Auburn professor offers advice for staying on track with New Year’s resolutions
At the start of a new year, many individuals set resolutions to live healthier lifestyles–either through diet changes, exercise or some combination of the two. However, many people admit to giving up on their resolutions early in the year, despite their best intentions when the resolutions were set. Danielle Wadsworth, an associate professor in the College of Education’s School of Kinesiology, answered a few questions on how people can stay on track with their goals.
Why are people more eager to set New Year’s resolutions for exercise versus diving in at any other time of the year?
I am not sure there is any clear reason why, other than most people associate the new year with new beginnings and a chance for change. Just remember that any time is a good time to get your body moving.
It seems that many people give up on the exercise routines a few weeks into the year. Why is that?
There are several reasons why people give up on their exercise routines. First, most people overestimate what they can do or the amount of time and energy a new exercise routine takes. Second, starting a new exercise routine for many is hard. Exercise for most of us is a volitional behavior that may require research into what you want to do, or new equipment, or time or it may be something that some just don’t like. Third, for many, exercise is the first to go in a long list of competing demands. Although the new year brings us a time of growth, it also has many obligations.
What can people do to ensure their resolutions will be sustainable long term?
The number one reason people self-report dropping out of an exercise routine is a lack of time, but I would argue it is a lack of time management, not actual time. After all, regular exercisers only have 24 hours in a day, just like non-exercisers. The only difference is regular exercisers manage their time and make exercise a priority. If you want to keep exercise as part of your regular schedule, do what you do for all the important items in your life: put it on the calendar first.
The second reason people drop out of an exercise program is they are not seeing the results they want to see. I encourage everyone to keep their goals small, increase a little week by week and, if you hit a plateau, change anything to get your body going again.
I would also encourage everyone to keep it simple and find something that you enjoy doing on a regular basis.
What are the best motivators and ways to stay motivated?
Most people are motivated by one of three aspects: enjoyment, relating to other people or an ability to show that you are competent at something. Think about yourself and what motivates you. Do you need to enjoy exercise to complete it? Would it be helpful to exercise with other people, or do you prefer exercising on your own? What are you good at, and how can you get better? Identifying these aspects early on will pay off in the future.
What suggestions do you have for people who are looking to start exercises in the new year? For someone who hasn’t had a physical activity routine, what’s the best way to start to maintain consistency?
First, keep it simple. You can meet exercise recommendations by simply walking 10,000 steps a day. Add in some simple bodyweight resistance, such as squats and push-ups and some stretching, and you have yourself a well-rounded routine. Second, if you have a smart watch, USE IT! Let it help you track your steps and keep you accountable. Third, try to move more throughout the day. If you have to sit for long periods of your day, try setting a timer to make yourself stand or move around. Fourth, think outside the box and make it fun. Exercise can and should be fun. If you have kids, think about how you can get them involved. Elementary children go to physical education every day in Alabama. Ask them what they did and do it again at home. Find some fun work site challenges or start your own TikTok revolution.
If people fall behind on their goals, what is a good way to get started again?
You most likely will not meet all your exercise goals. Give yourself some grace and revaluate what you can do RIGHT NOW. The most important aspect is you are MOVING! Think about how you can readjust and keep moving forward.
What types of goals are realistic and thus more realistically attainable?
Goals really depend on what you are doing now, what you have done in the past and what your physical capabilities are. For most, I would think about the frequency (how many days a week), intensity (how hard you are exerting yourself) and the time (duration of the activity) and only extend one of those per week. Humans are meant to move, and exercise can and should be a part of your daily routine. You’ve got this!
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