The first few days of the new year always inspire wishful thinking as millions of people resolve to get fit and be healthy. It seems we can count on it being the one time of the year when optimism runs high as hoards of people flock to gyms, exercise classes, health food stores and the Internet for the latest and greatest weight loss and exercise miracles.
After indulging in holiday parties and one too many desserts, we are all eager to recommit to our diet and fitness plans. And while some people may be making health related goals for the first time, the majority of us are not. In fact, Americans are notorious for recycling the same resolutions over and over again.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm and stamina that seems to kick off the new year, runs dry just a few short months later and only 8% of people who set new year’s resolutions, actually achieve them.
Why do so many people abandon their health and fitness goals and what are the secrets to those who do succeed?
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that those in the 92% category are thinking about resolutions with the wrong mindset. What is it that the 8% know that the rest of us don’t?
Getting fit and being healthy is about more than just working out. When we think about the scope of health and fitness, it not only includes physical exercise, but also our mental and emotional health. Simply put: how we feel about ourselves is often more important than how we look.
If 2016 was the year of body positivity, then 2017 is shaping up to be the year of exercise as medicine.
That’s right, exercise as medicine. People are tired of feeling tired. They’re fed up with living with chronic conditions that impact their daily living and they’re ready to make holistic changes that will impact their physical, emotional, and mental health.
The benefits of exercise extend well beyond how you look physically. From reducing your risk of heart disease to boosting mood and energy, exercise is quickly becoming one of the most widely used tools doctor’s are suggesting to their patients.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, Exercise is Medicine® is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.
This is encouraging news, considering that a commitment to a healthy lifestyle—which includes body, mind, and spirit—can be seen as the foundation for setting health and fitness resolutions in the new year.
Motivation to change
Let’s face it, change is scary. And getting motivated to change will only happen when the benefits far outweigh any sense of security that comes with staying the same. So once you have decided to make a change, it’s important to not do too much too quickly.
If you set a lofty goal, try breaking it up into smaller tasks that take less time to accomplish. For instance, if your overall goal is to run a half marathon, you must first start with weekly goals of shorter runs (increasing mileage each week) that build up to 13.1 miles. It’s important to note that seeing results is important, and mini goals help contribute to our feeling of success.
Change your focus
Take a step back from the traditional resolutions that focus on losing or quitting something, and instead, focus on what you want to gain. Maybe it’s the confidence gained when you cross the finish line after training for your first 5k, half marathon, or marathon. Or it might be the sense of calmness and clarity gained by increasing the connection between your mind and body. Regardless, looking at your goals from a position of strength and positivity, will help you make lasting change.
Accept that things might get worse before they get better
Any positive change will make a difference, but sometimes sticking with your goals and seeing them through may feel worse before it feels better. Accept that there will be many times during your transformation when discomfort is the only thing you experience. Try to remember that discomfort is actually a very good thing.
It’s during these moments of vulnerability and raw emotion, that you will be forced to choose between what’s familiar and what’s new. Here’s a tip: choose new. And while it might feel strange and uncomfortable, this discomfort is just a gauge of how badly you really want to change. The hard work you put in will pay off, as you begin to feel stronger and more confident about the direction you’re going.
Make time for change to happen
Sometimes working out is the easy part. It’s setting aside the time so you will actually show up, that most of us struggle with. We all start the new year with a zealous outlook and even tell ourselves that “this year will be different.”
And then life gets in the way. We buy the magazines, sign-up for the 30-day challenge, and commit to a healthy lifestyle. But what you really need to be asking yourself is: do you want to make time? Do you have the desire to say “no” to the things that will interfere with your health? And are you ready to be honest with yourself about where you’re at and where you want to go?
Accept that failure will happen
Growth cannot happen without failure. We are all going to face minor setbacks, but what determines if we will grow from them is how we deal with those setbacks.
Health is what you make of it
As we usher in 2017, it’s important to remember that fitness is not a program to buy into; it’s a lifestyle. So whether you need the sense of accountability that a community of like-minded people provides (think running groups, weekly yoga classes, or CrossFit), or you crave the individuality of a solo workout, just remember: health is what you make of it.
Photo: Nottingham Trent University, CC-BY
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and wellness.