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Keeping New Year's resolutions

Making your resolution to exercise stick.

Woman doing a push up outside on the grass
SydneyConnect Image: Exercising outdoors

Every year “exercise more” is on many people’s New Year’s resolutions lists, but it may not go much further than buying a gym membership or a new pair of runners.

One of our Senior Exercise Physiologists, Peter Woollett, shares his key strategies to help convert resolutions into lasting exercise habits.

Start with why

There are many reasons to exercise but there’ll only be one or two that’ll be the most relevant to you. So, remind yourself why it’s important. For some, it may be to be able to run around with your kids, to manage a specific health condition or maintain your independence. Take some time to think about how your life would be better as a result of your new exercise habit and place a reminder for yourself somewhere visible.

Start small

It's all well and good to tell yourself that running every morning before work is doable, and it may even be achievable for a couple of weeks while riding a crest of motivation. But, we’re creatures of habit, and the more drastic the change to our usual routine, the larger the psychological push back we’ll experience. Start with aiming to exercise once or twice a week. When you can do this regularly, then look to add extra sessions. 

Be Specific

Just having an intention to exercise without a specific plan to move more won’t bring you closer to your goals. The more detailed the plan, the less mental energy it takes to follow. The more mental energy something consumes, the easier it is to convince yourself it is all too hard. So, detail what exercise you’re going to do, as well as where and when you’ll do it.

Measure what you’re doing

Measuring your efforts is a good way to know you’re staying on track. Some people may like wearable activity trackers, others keep training diaries or track their steps with their smart phones. The act of measuring what you’re doing allows you to capture your progress as well as reinforce the positive behaviours you’re trying to make permanent.

Give the scales a rest

Often people start an exercise routine with the goal of managing their weight. If that’s the case, weigh yourself at most once a week on the same scales at the same time of the day. Weighing any more frequently than that can be counterproductive and disheartening. Mental energy is a finite resource and the more you spend worrying about the scales the less energy you’ll have for your exercise.

Accept that slip ups will happen

One of the biggest pitfalls is that at the first deviation from the plan people throw in the towel and write off the whole endeavour as a failure. Life will get in the way, things will come up. Work, family commitments, unexpected events will all disrupt even the most meticulously crafted plan. What makes a successful exercise habit is not the absence of these disruptions it’s the ability to stay on track when they occur. Aim for progress, not perfection.

Get the Right Support

Change can be hard. Going solo can be harder. The rise of group exercise classes have shown the value of the social element in making exercise more enjoyable. Coming up with a plan with family or friends can make it easier as you can keep each other on track when motivation lapses. Engaging with a professional exercise physiologist can also make a huge difference as their expertise is helping people implement and maintain appropriate exercise programs and overcoming any problems that arise along the way.