Every January, more than half of Americans will make some kind of New Years resolution — with 30% of these related to improving health — but less than half of this goal-setting group will follow through on their resolutions after the first few months. Why do these well intended resolutions fail? Researchers who study behavior and resolutions have discovered that grandiose or unrealistic resolutions are the first to be abandoned. Meanwhile, simple and realistic goals are easier to maintain over the long run and will eventually get you where you want to go.
Rather than make extreme changes, consider these five simple rules to guide your efforts to get in shape this year.
1. Consistency first. Make sure that you set realistic, sustainable goals that you can actually adhere to for more than a week. Don’t over-commit to a program that you won’t be able to maintain over the long run.
2. Cardio is a must. Ignore all the hype about high intensity interval training if you are starting a new program or getting back on the wagon; aerobic exercise, also known as cardio training, provides a wealth of health benefits without putting your body at risk for injury. It is a time commitment to do 20-30 minutes of cardio a few times a week, but you’ll be strengthening your heart, burning fat, reducing stress and even improving your memory.
3. Build full-body strength. Forget the typical image of a body-builder doing bicep curls. Strength training should involve every part of your body, and it all starts with building core strength. Find a strength routine that challenges your whole body, gradually and safely.
4. Get enough sleep. Our bodies need sleep to recover, and to maintain balance in our delicate hormonal/endocrine systems. Lack of sleep will sabotage your efforts to get in shape during the day, so be sure to get 8 hours of sleep at least five days a week.
5. Manage stress. Like sleep deprivation, too much stress can wreak havoc on your health and fitness. Although you can’t always control the sources of stress in your life, you can control how you respond to stress by taking care of yourself. Meditation, deep breathing, short naps, and yoga are great ways to mediate your stress response.
Work to implement these simple rules all year round, not just in January, and make it a life-long commitment. You’ll reap the rewards through longevity, physical fitness, and a better quality of life.