By Jess Scott Wright, RDN
The New Year’s Resolution – whether you have one, none or a list longer than Santa’s, there are a few simple strategies to get the most out of 2016.
A Forbes article points out that although more than 40 percent of Americans traditionally set resolutions every new year, only 8 percent succeed at keeping them. According to a Nielsen survey, the most popular resolutions are to “stay fit and healthy” and “lose weight.” Yes, leading a healthier life definitely begins with intention, but experts recommend setting goals that are specific, realistic and measurable. According to John Norcross of the University of Scranton, “…vague goals beget vague resolutions.”
Define vs. Describe
Instead of describing your goals with statements like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to exercise more,” elevate your resolutions with a definition – something you can follow.
If you want to exercise more in 2016, think about how you can best accomplish that. A more specific goal is “I will exercise every day,” but every day is a big commitment. Look at your schedule: figure out which days you have extra time. Are you more likely to exercise in the morning or at night? If you say, “I will go to the gym for an hour every Monday and Wednesday after work,” it provides you with more direction to hold yourself accountable to a resolution that is achievable.
Resolutions can be revised
If life’s happenings are getting in the way of your resolution, don’t chalk it up as a failure. Go back to the drawing board and make adjustments so that you can succeed. It is unrealistic to predict the next 365 days will not throw a curveball in your schedule. Expect it, but stay intentional.
Break the year down into chunks. Take your resolution a step further: “I will go to the gym for an hour every day Monday and Wednesday after work for six weeks.” Set up an incremental reward system.
Decide how you will reward yourself. After six weeks have passed, treat yourself to something that fuels your willpower and supports your resolution, such as a new pair of sneakers or a session with a personal trainer.
Define your why
Why do you want to exercise more? What are you trying to accomplish? To be healthier, yes, but maybe you want to lower your blood pressure or improve your resting heart rate. Do some research or utilize an expert to learn what type of exercise can best support your unique goals. This will give purpose and understanding to your actions.
For example, some people believe that the longer and harder you exercise, the better. This is not necessarily the case. Depending on your state of health and desired goals, you may benefit more from a shorter, high-intensity interval workout than running at a slow and steady pace on the treadmill for an hour.
In fact, a recent review by the American Physiological Society acknowledges that in spite of the positive effects endurance exercise may have on heart health, “recent reports suggest that prodigious amounts of exercise may increase markers for, and even the incidence of, cardiovascular disease” in certain individuals.
Does this mean you shouldn’t ever exercise because it’s bad for you? No, but a new year’s resolution is an investment in yourself. Rather than having a resolution that anyone can follow, customize it for you.
There’s always your birthday
A friend once told me new year’s resolutions are for everyone, but birthdays are your own personal new year. Even if you haven’t set a resolution about exercise or health, remember it’s never too late to start or restart.
Acknowledge yourself for valuing your health
Regardless of the role a calendar has on your decision to take a personal inventory and set health and wellness goals, may 2016 be a year full of greatness for you.
Have a happy and healthy New Year!