by Ciara O’Brien photography by Nikola Tzenov
The arrival of a new year brings opportunities for reflection and intentions to live a happier, healthier life. According to Statista’s Global Consumer Survey, 39 percent of U.S. adults made New Year’s resolutions in 2022. Of that group, almost half said they wanted to exercise more. Along similar lines, eating healthier and losing weight were also top priorities for many respondents.
It’s no surprise that seeking out a healthier lifestyle is a popular choice when it comes to setting goals. However, it’s also not shocking that these resolutions often fail to stick in the long run.
“Most gyms see a huge uptick in late December into January, and then they have a huge fall-off around the end of February. That itself tells us that it isn’t about not knowing what to do, it’s about being able to stick with doing something,” said Cari Pierce, holistic health coach, personal trainer, and owner of Flip Yours Fitness & Wellness in Westminster.
According to Pierce, it is important to be honest with yourself in terms of what you plan on doing and what you will actually do.
“The No. 1 reason New Year’s resolutions fail is because we bite off more than we can chew in terms of too large of a change or commitment all at once. Sustainable change comes from taking a more moderate step,” Pierce said.
“The ultimate bottom line is figuring out what the smallest success you can have is. What’s the easiest thing you can ask yourself to do, that you’re willing to do, without it being too much of a threat to your body and mind?” she added.
So how can we make exercise something that feels fun and worth looking forward to? Here are a few ideas for making exercise enjoyable and easy:
1. Go for a walk. While it may seem too simple to do much good, Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says walking is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” Even if it’s only for a few minutes around the block, taking a walk could be a great way to get your body moving. One of the great things about walking is that it can take many forms and can be adjusted to your interest or ability.
“Maybe they spent five or ten minutes walking, but it becomes a habit that’s doable every day. Maybe they could eventually increase the distance or even start to make it a jog,” said Pierce.
Spice it up by wearing ankle weights, stop every few minutes to do 10 air squats or jumping jacks, or do some interval training — walk at a faster pace for 30 seconds at intervals throughout a longer walk. Whether you’re taking the dog for an evening stroll, going on a chilly winter hike, or exploring a new city on foot, walking is great exercise with benefits that range from boosting immune function to easing joint pain to reducing sugar cravings.
2. Dance. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, dancing for 30 minutes can be considered a moderate-intensity amount of physical activity, making it comparable to faster walking or cycling. So don’t be afraid to allow the rhythm of your favorite songs to get you up and moving. Dancing has numerous health benefits in ways that are gentle yet effective, including improved cardiovascular health, increased balance and better heart health. Even if it feels silly at first, don’t be afraid to turn on your favorite tunes and bust a move!
3. Participate in a sport. This doesn’t have to entail running up and down a basketball court or getting tackled during a family football game. Think about a sport or yard game that you’ve always wanted to try, such as ultimate Frisbee, spikeball, fencing, or the increasingly popular pickleball. There are so many options, so there’s no doubt you’ll find something you love. Maybe you’ll end up having so much fun that you don’t even realize you’re getting a workout in!
4. Clean. This one isn’t the most exciting, but it has to be done anyway. You might as well get multiple returns from it. Be mindful about everyday activities such as washing dishes or folding laundry and build opportunities for movement around that. Do some calf raises while standing at the sink. Vacuum or mop the entire house. Find reasons to jog up and down the stairs. According to eatingwell.com, vacuuming will burn roughly 100-200 calories an hour and scrubbing the bathroom can burn 180-300 calories for an hour of work. If you’re looking for an opportunity to get outside, mowing the lawn for an hour with a pushmower or gardening could burn 350-500 calories and pressure-washing could burn 250-300 calories per hour.
5. Jump on a trampoline. For a lot of people, jumping on a trampoline evokes fond childhood memories. Now, there are trampoline parks and trampoline fitness classes all over, even for adults. If you’re looking for something you can do at home, studies show that mini-trampoline exercises can also be just as effective as running. Trampolining is a great way to get your heart rate up, improve balance, and add bone density.
Whatever you decide, make sure that you’re not doing it alone. Friends can be a great way to hold yourself and each other accountable. Plus, it’s just more fun to celebrate successes together.
“Make it known to friends and family that you’re making an effort towards exercising, so that you’re not doing it by yourself. When it comes to exercise specifically, I think it’s important to enroll in some help,” said Pierce.
Additionally, get honest with yourself and thoroughly examine why you want to exercise in the first place. Whether you want to reduce your risk of ailment, lose weight, or simply look and feel better, being more attuned to your emotions is a great way to stay true to your goals.
“We all are trying to feel better about ourselves. If we can tie into that emotional foundation of our ‘why,’ then we are more attuned to stick with that effort,” she said.
Whatever you choose, the key is to do something that is going to work best for you. Overall, you’re not going to be motivated to do something if you know you’re not going to find it enjoyable. There’s no single correct way to work out, so you might as well find something you love. Good luck with your resolutions in the new year!