NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - New Year’s resolutions: We make them, we break them, we make them again.
So it’s no surprise that “Get Fit” tops many of the same lists year after year.
Fitness experts say if you’re serious about shaping up this time, start by trading in your impossible dreams for some attainable goals.
“People will say, “I’m going to lose 30 pounds,’ when 10 pounds would be more doable. They’ll say, “I’m going to exercise every day,’ when three times a week may be more likely,” said Shawn Talbott, spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
The researcher and program developer, advises people to set realistic expectations.
“Compliance is the big sexy thing in fitness research: How do we get people to comply with their program?”
He suggests seeking out that sweet spot of balance between too much exercise and too little.
“Not so little that there are no benefits, and not so much that you can’t do it.”
And he says exercise loves company.
“I recommend making that resolution along with a buddy. Very good research shows that having someone you’re accountable to can double, even almost triple, your effectiveness. Then stick to your plan,” he said.
“Make gradual, graded workout goals, say twice a week for two months, then up your goal to three times a week for two months.”
One ACSM study showed that motivation to be physically active was higher when sports - instead of just exercise - were involved.
“Competitive is good,” he said. “You feel like you’ve got some skin in the game.”
The history of New Year’s resolutions dates back to ancient Rome and the mythical King Janus, from whose name January derives. He became a symbol for resolutions because he had two faces and could look simultaneously back on the past and look forward to the future.
Janus was also the guardian of entrances and doors.
Carol Espel, director of group fitness for the Equinox chain of health clubs, says every January resolution clients enter health clubs with high hopes and no plan.
“They might have the best intentions but not the right tools,” she said. “People say, “I really want to start exercising but I don’t know what to do.’”
She said it can be daunting.
“But if you’ve decided to take that New Years resolution seriously, and you’re upset that it comes up year after year, commit to the resources you need,” she said, “whether it’s a day-to-day planner, group classes or a personal trainer to keep you in line.”
Espel said even those without the will or the funds to join a club can achieve their fitness goals.
“Just get off the couch. When you come home from work, go out for a brisk walk,” she said. “Studies document that three 10-minute bouts of exercise a day can be very practical.”
Espel says it comes down to establishing a routine that you enjoy and sticking to it.
“A little soreness shows that you’ve done some pretty effective work,” she said. “Well exercised muscles burn calories more effectively.”
Then, of course, nothing succeeds like success.
“When people start to feel differently, when their clothes fit better or they have more energy,” she said, “that’s the most powerful motivating factor.”