New Year’s Resolution: A sensible kickstart to 2017

Posted on December 23, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Women jogging

I do wonder how historians will view 2016 because it has certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster ride right across the world. But, with a new year we have an opportunity to leave the old one behind and face the future with a hopeful attitude. Making resolutions is a tradition that dates back thousands of years to the Babylonians, who made promises in order to gain favour with the gods. However, it was Julius Caesar who created New Year’s Day on January 1st when he named the month after Janus, the god of beginnings. Whether you believe in making lists of resolutions or not, a new year is certainly a good time to rethink what we are doing in our lives, if something has benefited us or if it is time to ring some changes. Fitness is one of those areas where many of us probably could improve and I’m fairly confident that if gyms sent home reports, mine would say; “could do better.”

Set sensible goals

Dr Stephen Mears, a lecturer in Sports Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at Loughborough University suggests that when people make resolutions to improve their fitness, they start off by setting the bar too high. In other words we can’t go from sedentary – super fit in a couple of months. When we expect too much, we become discouraged and by the end of February we’re ready to abandon our fitness regime.

Dr Mears advises a more sensible approach in which we start slowly and focus more on making exercise part of our daily routine. The ideal is to create a routine that provides 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio-respiratory exercise per week, split up into sessions of 30 to 60 minutes. A dance class or walking will fit the bill, just as long as it is an activity that raises the heart rate and puts a bit of stress on the body “it will have some sort of benefit,” Dr Mears says.

Eight simple exercises

Bodybuilding athlete Hayley Madigan has put together a series of eight simple exercises to get you moving. You can do them at home and if you follow the link she explains the two methods of performing the exercises.

Emotional fitness

When we are encouraged to improve our fitness levels, people often forget about emotional fitness. Our state of mind will determine whether we are able to follow the above routine and stick to it, just as much as whether or not we find the exercises physically easy to complete. According to research by the Brain Research Institute, only 8% of resolutions are followed through on but there are some mental exercises you can follow to improve your chances of achieving your goals in 2017.

  1. Forget 2016: Don’t focus on the fact that you may have failed to follow your resolutions last January because that memory will encourage you to keep failing.
  2. Want to change: Avoid talking about wanting to change, instead direct your attention to feeling the ‘want to change’ and go for it. Contemplation is a stage before action, but don’t get stuck at that point. Take the leap!
  3. Build up to success: As Dr Mears said, and others concur with him, it is foolish to expect immediate results. Emily Mailey, a professor at the College of Human Ecology says: “If you start with lofty goals, it’s easy to become discouraged if you don’t meet those goals right away. Start by trying to do something once or twice a week for short durations of about 10 to 15 minutes. Then you can build up from there. This way you can set yourself up to be successful.”
  4. Tell somebody: Tell friends or family about your goal. If you don’t share your aim, you can easily duck out, and you won’t get the support you need to see it through.
  5. Look at the big picture: Weight loss is a common goal at the beginning of a new year, but rather than just focusing on shedding some pounds, take a look at why you have excess weight in the first place. Understanding the big picture helps make the task much easier to follow.

Don’t expect the Fitbit you got for Christmas or an app on your phone to miraculously do the work for you. And, when you feel tempted, flex your muscles because apparently that increases mental willpower, according to researchers at the University of Chicago. Here’s to a fitter and happier 2017 for all of you!

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.