If you’ve promised yourself to be more active in 2019, you have lots of company.
Almost two-thirds of people — 59 percent — who are making a New Year’s resolution say their goal is to exercise more, according to a new survey by YouGov, a market research company. It’s the top resolution on a list that also includes eating healthier, saving money and losing weight.
Many people will quickly find out how difficult keeping that promise can be. Studies show up to 20 percent of resolutions are broken within the first week of January and 80 percent are broken within the first year.
To boost your chances of success, Brandon Alderman, an expert in exercise psychology, has some unique and practical advice:
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1. Make it your goal to put on exercise clothes when you come home from work.
For people who find it difficult to incorporate exercise into their lives, setting a vague goal to work out "more" can be daunting. But the simple act of changing into exercise clothes takes the pressure off, while putting you on the right path.
“A much easier goal would be: ‘All I have to do is walk in the house and take off my work clothes and put on my exercise clothes.’ It’s specific, it’s measurable,” Alderman, an associate professor and vice chair of education and administration in the department of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told TODAY.
“The idea behind doing that is you’ve met your goal and it’s probably difficult to take those exercise clothes off without actually doing some form of exercise.”
In other words, once you’ve got those biking shorts, running shoes or yoga pants on, you might as well do a workout.
It’s a strategy Alderman uses himself. He recommended setting a goal of putting your exercise clothes on least three days a week for three months as a start.
2. Focus on the immediate benefits of exercise.
“One problem is that when people make a resolution to exercise more, often they’re doing that for the potential long-term benefits of exercise” such as losing weight or looking better, Alderman said.
But it’s debatable whether exercise alone can do that without accompanying changes in diet.
Alderman would rather people focus more on the immediate benefits of exercise, such as feeling better afterwards, experiencing less stress and enjoying better mental clarity.
“A more effective approach is almost to be a little bit more selfish or self-centered in terms of exercise and say, ‘I’m going to exercise for 30 minutes five or more days per week for me,’” he said.
“We all just need to get up and move more.”
3. Remember: The best type of exercise is the exercise you'll actually do.
Pick an activity you like: walking, dancing, swimming, running, jumping rope or whatever fits your life. Americans are sitting for extremely long periods of time and becoming more and more inactive, so even low-level activity that replaces being completely sedentary is good, Alderman said. The government's exercise guidelines call for adults to get at least 2 ½ hours to five hours a week of moderate intensity exercise; or 1 hour, 15 minutes to 2 ½ hours of intense activity every week.