Exercise more and lose weight. Year in, year out, these are the two big resolutions that people make. Motivational expert, Professor David E. Conroy, says the fact that they are consistently the most common resolutions indicates how challenging it is to stick with them. As a researcher on the psychology of motivation at Penn State University, Conroy has spent years studying the science of motivation and he knows embedding new exercise habits is no small feat. “It’s tough to change behavior. Any time you’re trying to engage in behavior change, you’re swimming against the current.”
So are resolutions worth it? A 91% failure rate suggests the most common approaches to resolutions definitely need a rethink. We’ve picked apart the two most popular resolutions to reveal how you can turn them around and make them work for you.
Resolution #1: “I want to start exercising more.”
Aiming to exercise more is certainly not a bad idea. But it’s tough because many of the rewards of physical activity are delayed – and it’s easier to succeed with behavior change when you feel the rewards instantaneously. “You can tell people that by being more physically active they’re preventing chronic disease in 30 years, but this isn’t often seen as a compelling reward. People want something that feels good right now,” explains Conroy. So while your long-term objective might be to get fitter and healthier, you’ll find it easier to embed your new activity if you focus on the short-term rewards. It could be enjoying ‘you time’, learning a new skill, the social aspect of group training, more energy, better sleep, or simply an excuse to wear new activewear.
TOP TIPS FOR BECOMING MORE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
Start small and focus on gradual incremental change.
One mistake people often make is going too hard and too fast with a new exercise routine. By jumping headfirst into a tough workout, you’re likely to feel miserable while you’re working out, sore afterwards, and reluctant to repeat the experience.
Conroy suggests thinking of a ladder with your goals, and make sure you only take one step at a time. “Have the rungs close together so the ladder is easier to climb.”
Resolution #2: “I want to lose weight.”
Exercise has long been a common prescription for people looking to improve health by losing weight. For decades, we’ve been led to believe that simply adding exercise is the secret to shedding those unwanted pounds. But the evidence doesn't really show this. Academics and experts are now doing an about-turn, with the latest research supporting a focus on exercise for improved fitness over weight loss. There’s now evidence to show you can be healthy at any weight – if you’re active.
This doesn't mean that maintaining a healthy weight isn't a valuable health objective – it is. And we know that exercise can deliver significant changes to body composition. But scientists have shown that when it comes to weight loss, focusing on exercise alone often results in less weight loss than expected.
If your primary focus is weight loss, this can be problematic on a number of levels. When you don’t see the results you dream of, you can feel disappointment, despondence and become disengaged from your workout routine. And when that happens, you lose all the other magnificent benefits that come from exercise.
TOP TIPS IF YOUR GOAL IS WEIGHT LOSS
Start by focusing on all the wonderful ways exercise changes your body. Exercise can help reduce stress and anxiety, it will help you feel happier and more successful and it can ease negativity. Exercise is an important medicine when it comes to countering all sorts of illnesses and it is key to improved brain function. Regular exercise can keep you youthful and help you live longer and that’s just the beginning … there are many other novel benefits of exercise too.
By focusing on what you can gain from regular exercise (rather than the pounds you could lose) you’ll approach exercise more positively, do it more often, and over time start seeing transformative results.
Kaylah-Blayr believes that when you become more aware of the wonderful ways exercise is benefiting your body, it really keeps you motivated. “There are different types of motivation that appeal to different people,” she adds. “Find what works for you. Figure out what fills your tank and what makes you want to get moving.”
Kaylah-Blayr Fitzsimons-Nu’u spent years wanting to be skinnier. “Body image has always been one of my biggest hurdles … I spent my whole life thinking I needed to get skinny… but trying to get ‘skinny’ had never worked for me.” When she stopped trying to fight her natural body type and embraced that she can still be strong, beautiful and successful, it was life-changing – and she shifted her mindset completely. “I went from thinking “I need to get skinny” to thinking “I want to be the best athlete I can, so I can perform. I gave myself a new goal of wanting to be the best athlete I could.” And she’s made it happen. Now, as a hugely popular fitness professional, Kaylah-Blayr is supremely fit, healthy and most importantly, proud of her body.
Thinking about starting a new diet in the new year. Think again.
If you want to discover how to enjoy a lifetime of healthy and nutritious eating start by putting these six simple steps into practice.
Begin your new nutrition journey today. Join Kaylah-Blayr, Bas Hollander and Diana Mills for the six-week LES MILLS FUEL RESET.