Another New Year is upon us and with it another round of New Year’s Resolutions.
It is estimated that over 40% of Brits make a commitment to change something about themselves in the year ahead.
Out of these commitments, health and fitness are by far the most common. Losing weight alone accounts for over 20% in some studies.
Weight loss, getting in shape and exercising (starting or increasing) lead the list of resolutions almost every year, yet less than 10% of people are successful in meeting their New Year’s goals, often abandoning their self-improvement plans within the first few weeks of the new year.
So how do you then go about making, and more importantly keeping, a promise to yourself to be leaner, fitter and healthier this Year?
This article will look at:
- Why to make a New Year health and fitness resolution.
- How to make and keep your resolution.
- A 15 minute body-weight workout that will help you start your exercise journey.
Why make a New Year health and fitness resolution?
Why should you jump on the New Year bandwagon and make a resolution to get in shape anyway?
If it’s one of the most common resolutions and over 90% fail at keeping it, perhaps it’s just too hard or not worth the effort. We’ll look at ways to make this resolution easier to keep later on, but let’s start by reviewing some of the well-known benefits of following a regular exercise program.
Losing weight is the goal for 1 in 5 people. The simple key to weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume and any exercise, no matter how brief or how intense, burns calories.
You can purchase all the exercise programmes, shiny equipment and sexy gym attire you want but, at the end of the day, burning calories is free. You’ve just got to move!
For information on how to plan the amount of calories you consume, everything you need to know is in our article: Setting Your New Year Nutrition Goals.
So one reason you may want to set a New Year resolution is to lose weight but is aesthetics the real benefit of this goal?
Regular exercise has been shown to increase good cholesterol and decrease bad, lower blood pressure, prevent or help manage strokes, diabetes, depression, some types of cancer and arthritis, it also helps prevent falls, improve mood and self-esteem, boost your sex life and improve sleep.
Still not convinced? Exercise will improve your muscular strength and endurance, giving you more energy to deal with your daily activities.
In other words, losing weight and looking good is just the tip of the iceberg! You should exercise regularly just so that your daily grind of driving, going to work and hauling groceries is easier and less exhausting; especially as you age!
So how do you find the time to add exercise to your busy day and if you start, how do you ensure that you won’t be one of the 90% who fail? Follow this simple, three-step process.
- Choose a realistic goal – Be Realistic.
- Make exercise a habit – Be Consistent.
- Be accountable – Be Committed.
If you’ve tried to exercise before and failed or you’ve never really tried regular exercise, it’s a fresh Year – let’s make a start!
How to make and keep your health and fitness resolution?
1. Be Realistic
Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG) may be all the rage on Wall Street or with the consulting crowd but when it comes to adding exercise to your daily routine, less is more.
Starting small and ramping up in terms of length and intensity is far more likely to be a successful strategy, than is committing to a marathon when your current running shoes are a pair of sneakers you wear with jeans on the weekend.
To help you get started we have suggested a 15 minute programme below. This will help you “grease the groove” without causing physical or mental exhaustion.
If you like a little more control or need a bit more of a challenge, these articles will help:
- A Christmas Fat Burning Workout – A 1 hour fat burner to complete 3 times per week.
- Spend The Festive Season Reflecting And Preparing Your Mind For The Year Ahead – How to set achievable goals.
- Exercise For Less – Exercises that require very little in terms of cost and equipment.
- Simple Exercise Routines For Those Who “Just Don’t Have The Time” – Several exercise routines that take between 10 minutes and 1 hour.
- Exercise At Home – Simple exercises that you can do at home.
- Desk Exercises – Exercises you can do at your work desk to keep supple (not a training regime).
2. Be Consistent
Much of what we do every day: walking, eating, driving to work, is done almost automatically by habit.
Any activity, repeated often enough becomes a habit, this includes bad habits like smoking and overeating.
To make exercise a habit you have to start by doing it consistently – one day at a time, then one week at a time, then one month at a time.
If you need to, resolve to get up just 15 minutes early every morning and exercise for 15 minutes first thing, you may not notice a difference right away but forming this habit will lead to significant benefits in the future.
You will also have the right to be smug because your resolution will outlast almost everyone else’s!
3. Be Committed
Nowadays, you hear a lot of motivations speaker say that motivation is not enough to achieve your goals; you need discipline, drive and commitment.
Motivation is a temporary feeling that you wont have all of the time. It’s the discipline and commitment that pushes you to exercise, even when you don’t feel like it, that sets you apart from the 90% that fail!
Willpower is not enough!
To help you become committed you need to find someone to be accountable to or something to be accountable for. Accountability drives commitment.
Economists call this someone or something a “commitment device” – a device that restricts choice so you don’t act upon impulse. It gives you a reward for keeping your resolution and/or a punishment for not doing so.
This can be a simple as posting your plans on social media – emotional support and meeting other’s expectations can be powerful commitment devices.
Working out with a partner or group is also a good commitment device – it’s harder to stay in bed at 6am if you know your friend is waiting for you to exercise.
Book a holiday, sign up for a photo shoot, hire a personal trainer or sign up to a charitable run. Do whatever works for you but be sure to understand that this is to get you into the habit of exercise!
It is not a means to an end!
It is not a quick fix!
Make sure your commitment device really does what it is supposed to do – incorporate exercise into your lifestyle forever!
Interestingly, buying expensive exercise equipment or joining a gym are not good commitment devices. Gym memberships increase by as much as 50% each January and by mid-February around 80% of new members stop going regularly. Make exercise a habit first, join the gym later.
Your initial 15 minute body-weight work-out
So what exercise program should you start with this New Year?
Again, start with something simple, realistic and what you’re likely to stick with. This could mean nothing more than walking for 15 minutes every morning or even just taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator.
In today’s information age there are hundreds of exercise programs available on DVD, streaming or video. There are books and magazines if you are old-school, or smartphone and tablet apps for the tech savvy.
Whatever program or programs you pick, try to find ones that use body weight for resistance or otherwise does not require a large commitment in terms of money, space and time. Remember, an unused treadmill is not a commitment device, it’s a clothes hanger.
Along with the exercises noted below, there are also resources on our YouTube channel which you can use to your benefit. Here is just one video that will help with your exercise journey:
The exercises below require no equipment except for a good pair of shoes and some comfortable clothing.
It works out all parts of the body and includes some aspects of cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.
Lastly, it focuses on time and form, not weights, reps or sets. It can be done generally in less than 15 minutes allowing time between exercises to rest, towel off and hydrate.
If you are new to exercise, always check with your physician before starting any exercise program; however, no matter where you’re starting from you can always find a program to meet your needs – don’t just make a New Year’s Resolution, resolve instead to make a new you!
Hip Swings (side) – 30 seconds
- Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart.
- Keep your left leg straight and lift it out to the side as far as it will go without discomfort.
- Swing it back across your body in front of your right (support) leg. Then swing it back out to the side and repeat for 30 seconds. Switch legs.
- Keep your torso upright, don’t lean, and keep your swinging leg straight.
Hip Swings (front) – 30 seconds
- Similar to the above except swing your leg directly forward and back.
- Do 30 seconds on each leg.
These two exercises help warm up your large muscles and cardiovascular system for the exercises to follow, improve flexibility in your hips and your ability to balance, and strengthen your core. If you need to hold onto something to keep your balance, feel free to do so.
Hip Rotations – 30 seconds each side
- Start from a similar shoulder-width stance.
- Stand on your right leg. Lift your left leg, flexed 90 degrees at the left knee.
- Move your flexed knee from the hip out to your left side.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for 30 seconds. Switch sides.
Good Mornings – 30 seconds
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands touching behind your head, elbows bent. (Don’t interlock your fingers).
- Bend forward from your hips. Knees should not be locked, but the motion is from the hips, not the knees.
- Keep your head up and your back flat. Straighten up and repeat.
An old-school exercise for your core.
Wood Choppers – 30 seconds each side
Another core exercise. This one for the obliques (love handles) mostly.
- Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Extend both arms up at 45 degrees toward the left shoulder.
- Bring them down together across your body toward your right hip and bend your knees slightly as if you’re chopping a piece of wood.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for 30 seconds.
- Change arm direction for another 30 seconds.
Cross Body Rotations – 30 seconds
Also for the core but adds shoulders and flexibility.
- Again, stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Extend both hands out to your sides.
- Keeping your feet flat, rotate from your hips swinging your outstretched arms.
Wall Sits – 1 minute
- Stand with your back flat against the wall.
- Sit down no further than with your thighs parallel to the ground.
- Hold for as long as you can with a goal of one minute. Keep your back flat. Your hands can rest on your hips, or be held out in front for an added challenge.
A great exercise for the quads (thighs) and glutes (bum).
Squat – 30 seconds
- Start with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees and lower your body toward the floor. Be sure your front knee does not go past and imaginary vertical line from your toes, keeping your back straight and body upright.
- Repeat for thirty seconds each side.
Works the quads and the core mainly. More advanced exercisers can add hand weights to work different muscles or make the move more challenging.
Side Lunge – 30 seconds each side
- Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart.
- Bend your left knee as you transfer your bodies weight to the left, keeping your spine straight and toes pointing forwards. Your right leg should be straight, at around a 45 degree angle from the floor.
- Don’t let your knee go past your toes on your flexed leg.
- Stand back up, pushing through your heel on the left leg.
- Repeat for 30 seconds each side.
The wider your step to the side the more you use your glutes but this exercise works your whole lower body and core.
Push Ups – 1 minute
An old standby for core, chest and arm strength. Do as many as you can with good form (back straight, head neutral) in one minute. You can do these from your knees or even upright facing a wall if needed until you develop the strength to do them flat on the floor. A single good push up from your knees beats five bad ones prone.
Some of these exercises are explained in our mobility routine video:
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