The No. 1 resolution in the U.S. this time last year was to become more physically fit, up from No. 4 in 2002, according to a Franklin-Covey survey. It’s a good goal. Of course, starting is the easy part. “While visions of improved health and fitness can get most of us started on an exercise program, they're notoriously weak motivators over the long haul," says Bob Hopper, Ph.D., and exercise psychology and former NCAA championship swimmer. Luckily, there are some battle-tested strategies you can employ to make sure this year's resolutions stick. “These strategies come from what athletes do,” Hopper says. “It’s a set of best practices that all athletes use to achieve their performance goals.”
How successful are New Year’s resolutions, anyway? Not very, according to a 2002 study carried out by researchers at the University of Scranton. While 71% of study participants held strong through the first two weeks, that number dwindled to 46% after six months. A 1998 study found that by the two-year mark, just 19% of participants can stay on track. But don’t let that discourage you from declaring some New Year’s resolutions; the same study found that when compared with participants who had the same goals but didn’t declare any resolutions, those who made resolutions were 10 times more likely to achieve their goals.
1) Enjoy Yourself: Instead of attacking your weight-loss goal head-on, pick a sport or activity that you will actually enjoy and make that your focus. “The more pleasure we get from a physical activity, the more likely we are to stick to it,” Hopper says. Use the gym to train for your new activity and those extra pounds will take care of themselves. “It’s that pursuit of getting better that develops a passion for an activity,” Hopper explains.