By Mike Bento
I'm not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions because they generally don’t work. Each January, people promise themselves that they will do something really positive in the new year — like lose 20 pounds in 2017. That seems simple, but it encompasses many potential challenges that can become unmanageable.
The motivation behind New Year’s resolutions is fantastic, but the resolutions themselves need to be more focused. Resolutions like trimming body fat, adding lean muscle, improving cholesterol levels or controlling blood sugar require consistent exercise, good nutrition and adequate sleep. It is also important to allow your body time to recover from your workouts.
If you’ve tried to stick to an exercise program, eat more vegetables or change your routine to regularly get enough sleep, you know improving just one of those things takes considerable planning and effort. Trying to nail them all down at the same time is practically impossible.
Making New Year’s Resolutions Stick
I certainly don’t want to discourage people from endeavoring to improve their health. But I do suggest taking a concentrated approach. Instead of big resolutions, build on smaller goals.
Focus on one change you are confident you can make, and then stick to it with tenacious determination. Whether it’s exercising four to five days a week, getting eight hours of sleep every night or simply drinking an extra glass of water every day, make it a habit before moving on to the next change. You’ll gradually build a series of successful changes over time and steadily become a fitter, healthier you.
Some changes are more difficult to make than others. Drinking an extra glass of water every day is easier than fitting five days of exercise into a busy schedule. No matter what you choose to do, make a manageable plan and give it time. To quote Harvey MacKay, a best-selling author and columnist who gives career and inspirational advice: “Be like a postage stamp. Stick to it until you get there!”
Three Ways to Make Healthy Changes
1. For beginners — Start an exercise habit by setting 10 minutes aside for a walk five days a week. Walking is a great way to begin getting active and doesn’t require any special equipment. Add a minute or two to each walk every week, working up to a 30-minute walk, five days per week.
2. For regular exercisers — To avoid your progress stalling, cross train with a different type of exercise, like stair-climbing, instead of walking. Or mix in one day of high intensity intermittent exercise — bursts of high effort followed by low-intensity recovery.
3. If you struggle with motivation — Try recruiting someone to exercise with you. A workout partner will help you support your exercise efforts, and you can do the same for your partner.
Remember that creating lasting change is a gradual process. Identify your first goal and get started. You’ll see immediate benefits and can look forward to more as a result of your new habits.
Mike Bento is an advanced trainer at The Clubs at Charles River Park and Massachusetts General Hospital. He holds a master’s degree in human movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a corrective exercise specialist and performance enhancement specialist.
This document is not a substitute for your care team's medical advice and should not be relied upon for treatment for specific medical conditions.