I’m a Fitness Expert and I Don’t Want You to Make a Huge Fitness Resolution Next Year

Sure, we know the weather outside is frightful, but to be honest, what happens in the wellness zeitgeist around this time of year is even scarier. After all, ‘tis the season of New Year’s resolutions. While all the sponsored Instagram posts, marketing emails, and banner ads will soon be pushing for you to “get back on track,” “get back in shape,” “burn off those holidays,” and on and on, I really hope that you will ignore them. In fact, I hope that you won’t make any really big, majorly life-altering fitness-related resolutions. Let me explain.

You might think that I am over-analyzing the messages, intentions, and intricacies of it all, but, that is exactly what I’m trained to do. Yes, I am a part of the fitness industry as an instructor and influencer, but I also have a Ph.D. in public health and have studied behavior change and chronic disease prevention extensively. And, yes, I want you to take my classes and prioritize your health, but more so, I want to help you incorporate movement into your daily life for better health outcomes and longevity. Like, for the rest of your life. So, when I say that I don’t want you to make huge fitness resolutions, it’s not that I don’t want you to win; in fact, it’s that I want you to actually win. And I want you to keep winning, every day, regardless of which date the calendar says and which ads pop up as you do your holiday shopping. The issue is, you (really, we) are often set up to fail when it comes to resolution season.

Here’s what happens: We are in the ~most wonderful time of the year~ with all the holiday parties, family gatherings, festive foods, decorations galore, shopping, dashing around on our respective holiday missions. Indulgence is one of the prominent themes of the season. Actually, let me be more precise: indulgence slathered with guilt is the prominent theme. We are encouraged to over-indulge in everything—shopping, gift giving, eating, drinking, partying, relaxing—and then to feel really guilty about all of it, and then finally to be emboldened to make some really impassioned New Year’s resolutions to erase it all like it never happened. And by “emboldened” I mean that you don’t have to look very far for reassurance that “getting in shape” is what you should be doing as soon as the clock strikes midnight. The icing on the fruit cake is that it’s all a yearly cycle: start the year brand new with all your intentions and new behaviors, slip, keep slipping, start all over again next year. And so on. The guilt is never meant to subside.

So now you may be asking: But what if I really do want to get in shape? Great! I’m all for you getting more movement in your day, being mindful of what you put in your body, taking care to sleep, hydrate, relax, and all of that. Let’s just switch up our approach.

The problem with resolutions

It is a fairly popular opinion in my fields (fitness and public health) that New Year’s resolutions don’t really lead to long-term habit change. This is pretty consistent with the prevalent, albeit anecdotal, commentary I have heard for years around gyms and studios from clients, trainers and managers about how empty things will become just after Valentine’s Day.

According to one poll, about 68 percent of respondents who made a resolution in 2018 had stuck to it for just part of the year.

So, where’s the problem? When we are talking about engaging in healthy behaviors that pertain to exercise and nutrition “part of the year” isn’t enough. These are behaviors that we need to continually engage in pretty much for the rest of our lives. Resolving to “get in shape” and then letting that go in February or in one year or even in two years may not do much, if anything, for our long-term health.

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