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Every time the calendar turns to a new year, millions of Americans make a resolution, get up from their couches and purchase a membership at a local gym.
And that commitment to get in shape lasts — for a month or two. Alas, 73 percent of all people who make New Year’s fitness resolutions eventually return to their slothful ways, according to a study from Harris Interactive.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Following are six tips for keeping your New Year’s resolution to get fit.
1. Keep your goals small and specific
Getting in shape can be a daunting task, which is why it’s often best to set small, specific and — above all else — realistic goals at the beginning of your journey.
Too many people set overly ambitious goals that do not allow for the occasional misstep, according to Marni McNiff at Organic Authority:
Instead of creating a goal to exercise seven days a week, try starting with 4-5 days. Instead of looking at the big picture of wanting to lose 30 pounds, start with a goal of 5 pounds. Or even just 1.
Think of your resolution to get fit as a marathon, not a sprint. With a little time, effort and patience, you’re bound to cross the finish line.
2. Don’t be a perfectionist
Once you have established a goal, don’t expect to achieve it flawlessly. When it comes to fitness, being a perfectionist can set the stage for disappointment and, ultimately, failure.
In fact, a review of data in 43 studies published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review found that perfectionism leads to stress and anxiety that sabotage performance.
According to a report on the study in Shape magazine:
Blame something called “perfectionistic concerns,” says Andy Hill, Ph.D., and lead author of the study. Translation: the fears, doubts and concerns we have if we don’t meet the standards we set for ourself. And when we get too caught up with these concerns, we become bogged down with worry, anxiety and distracting thoughts that can sabotage our optimal performance.
Celebrate your successes, but don’t use an off day as an excuse to berate yourself and throw in the sweaty towel. Shape magazine encourages you to view setbacks and shortcomings as opportunities that ultimately get you closer to your goal:
One terrible run doesn’t mean you’ll never reach your PR [personal record], but instead might be a chance for you to re-evaluate your rest day schedule or refine how you’re hydrating before hitting the pavement.
3. Don’t go it alone
You’ve heard the old adage “strength in numbers”? Well, working out with one or more pals can help strengthen your body and your relationships. It also can boost your resolve to stick with a fitness plan. According to the health and fitness magazine Experience Life:
Exercise partners provide a powerful combination of support, accountability, motivation and, in some cases, healthy competition.
Experience Life adds that the more people you have actively involved in your fitness efforts, the more likely you all are to enjoy both the process and the results.
4. Make fitness a priority
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity can help to control your weight, strengthen bones and muscles, improve mental health and mood, and reduce the risk of certain diseases. It can even help increase your lifespan.
So why shove exercise aside for other, less important activities? Instead of putting your physical and mental well-being on the back burner, choose to make fitness a priority and schedule it into your day as you would a doctor’s appointment, lunch date or important business meeting.
5. Mix it up
Variety is the spice of life, and it also adds zest to any exercise program. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE):
Research has shown that adding variety to an exercise program can improve adherence. Exercise scientists at the University of Florida observed that individuals who modified their workouts every two weeks over an eight-week period appeared to enjoy their workouts more and were more inclined to stick with their exercise programs when compared to individuals who followed the same workout regimens week after week.