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What science says about sticking to new activity regimes


Otautahi – If anyone has struggled to keep a new year resolution to exercise more, experts say to start small and to schedule time to work out, researchers say.

A pledge to get more active is a popular New Year’s resolution, but research shows that most people give up on their efforts around exercise and losing weight by February.

Researchers say there can be several factors as to why people don’t stick with it. Often, it’s because the goal may have been too ambitious.

A key part is really starting small and set realistic routine goals, the University of British Columbia health and exercise scientists say.

Sticking to a new exercise routine can be challenging, as it involves a series of behaviours such as getting dressed, checking the weather, and then doing the activity.

That’s what makes it exceptionally difficult to start and maintain. It’s not like putting on a seat belt or brushing teeth or taking a vitamin.

Before lacing up gym gear, experts agree to should start by reflecting on why physical activity or losing weight is important to each person.

A typical New Year’s resolution of needing to lose five kg fast may get someone into a gym or outside for the first few days, but for most it’s not going last long.

Swedish researchers have found people who make resolutions around approaching a goal with a positive outcome rather than avoiding something were more likely to keep their resolutions.

The University of Ottawa’s education department recommends people start slow and recognise the movement they already do as part of their daily routine, like getting up from a chair or walking down stairs, and building upon that.

Canada’s movement guidelines suggest adults get at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular or aerobic activity at a moderate or vigorous intensity per week and muscle strengthening activities like lifting weights at least twice a week.

Smartwatches can be one way to self-monitor your exercise progress. Tracking allows people to recognise accomplishments which can help them feel good about themselves and perpetuate motivation to exercise.

There are many ways to self-monitor, but apps and smartwatches can help track our progress and for the old-school trackers, a notebook also works.