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How to keep your New Year's fitness resolution from failing

Dr. Jordan D. Metzl | 1/16/2017, 6 a.m.
If you're like most Americans, you've made getting more fit and losing weight your New Year's resolution to kick off ...
Healthy lifestyle

— If you're like most Americans, you've made getting more fit and losing weight your New Year's resolution to kick off 2017. Unfortunately, your resolution will most likely fail.

According to a study from the Statistic Brain Research Institute, roughly 42% of Americans made New Year's resolutions for 2017. The most common resolution -- made by almost a quarter of every person making one -- involves increasing fitness and activity. As people look down at their waistlines after the holiday season, there is a strong desire to get active.

This why the treadmills at your gym are packed this month. But if you're annoyed at having to wait your turn, just be patient; most of them will give up in the coming months.

The study found that of those who made resolutions, 37% of people in their 20s and 16% of those over 50 were successful, meaning they met their objectives. Combined, fewer than half of all New Year's resolutions were successful six months out.

But you don't need to be one of the quitters. As a sports medicine physician and fitness class instructor, I have found clear strategies for success in maintaining fitness goals all year.

Make it social

Humans are social animals. The more we interact with others, the more likely we are to modify behavior.

Social interaction has been shown to make people more likely to work out. Join a group, such as signing up for a fitness class, joining a local running or walking club, or even hiring a personal trainer.

Also, pre-pay for sessions when possible. Having financial "skin in the game" combined with a commitment to another person means you're much more likely to stick with your program.

Newer evidence suggests that if you can't make to a group in person, having a virtual fitness community can increase exercise compliance. Tracking platforms such as FitBit, Garmin and Strava allow people to create social communities and inspire them to work out more.

Commit to a date-specific goal

Goals don't need to be lofty to be effective. But it's useful to sign up for an event: a 5K walk, a 10K race, a marathon, a triathlon or even a ballroom dance competition.

When you set a goal, preferably one just slightly outside your comfort zone, you're much more likely to stick with your fitness program. Pick your goal, register for the event and put it on your calendar so you know where you're headed.

Keep smiling

Fun increases helps people stick with a workout program. A small study published in Germany last year showed that when people were having fun, they were much more likely to stick with their exercise regimen.

I have found this to be true in my fitness classes as well. Even if the workouts are difficult -- when it's 25 degrees outside at 6 a.m. -- people show up. As they have reported, the primary reasons are fun and community. Make sure your exercise program is making you smile. If it's not, try another approach.