Looking to get fit in the new year? First, clear your schedule
If you want to lose weight or get in shape as a New Year's resolution, you can choose from a buffet of trendy ways to exercise. But to avoid the annual ritual of broken promises, says a University of Georgia exercise scientist and researcher, you'll need old-school solutions.
"We say activity drops with age, but it's not causal—it's about your time," says Rod Dishman, a professor of exercise science in the UGA College of Education's kinesiology department. "I would say there are more options to be sedentary now because there are more options to chew up your day on your personal devices."
Every year, says Dishman, thousands of people start a quest to be more active on Jan. 1. And a few months later, the majority of them stop. But a few simple steps can keep people in the routine longer, hopefully making exercise part of someone's routine.
For one, it's about time.
"For a New Year's resolution to be more active to be successful, you've got to set aside some of your time. Be aware of your environment around the time of day that might be the most accessible to fit it in," says Dishman, who has more than 30 years of experience in sport and exercise psychology. "If you want to make exercise a priority, you have to stop doing something else."
Think about your day, Dishman says, and find a sedentary activity that can be replaced with a physical activity. For people who were active when they were younger, Dishman also suggests reassessing that activity you once did. It might be time to try something new, or at least assess how much you love that activity you used to do.
And if that's not enough to pull you off the couch, get a buddy to keep you honest about your commitment.
"Don't do it alone, because you will keep a commitment to someone else that you won't keep to yourself," he says. "For the people who come to the kinesiology department's fitness center, and to the programs, it becomes social. Everybody has to be somewhere, so why not there?"
Past research backs up the theory. In one national study done for Home Depot, for example, UGA researchers found people were more motivated to exercise when they were in teams, competing against each other.
But beyond the competitive aspect of exercising—or even the social aspect of meeting a friend at the gym—Dishman says successful New Year's resolutions are about changing your routine.
"If you can change your environment, you can change your behavior," he says. "But changing human nature is a tough thing."