We all know the routine. New Year’s Eve comes and promises to move more and improve ourselves with exercise are made. But by Valentine’s Day they’re long forgotten.
The reason most people fail to stick to their resolutions is that they set the bar too high and there’s nothing less motivating than an early fail to stop a person trying again.
The good news is that it takes three months to establish a new habit. So, as well as managing what we set ourselves up to do, we should stop thinking about a 12-month regime and focus more on short-term goals.
Here’s as a fool-proof way to make sure you move more in 2018. It only takes a little extra activity each day to add up to a fitter, healthier you.
1. Know where you are now
Before you start setting new goals you need to really know how active you already are. Even regular gym goers will be amazed how much of their day is sedentary if they have a long drive to work, sit at a desk while working and enjoy a box set binge at the weekend.
There’s a huge amount of smart, wearable sports tech that can monitor your usual movement and most of them have a weekly reporting app in which you can identify the times of day and days of the week when you burn the least calories.
So, before you resolve to make a change get an objective understanding of where you’re at.
2. Set achievable goals
Equipped with the knowledge of your established weekly movements and exercise you can then set realistic and achievable targets. Simply upping your step goal by 2,000 steps every day will require 700 calories for the average person and if nothing else changes at all that can result in a 1-2lb weight loss each week.
If walking is not your thing, getting half an hour of moderate exercise of a different type three times each week will use up roughly 600 calories. This can be swimming, dancing going for a leisurely bike ride and so on.
The key is to find accessible exercise that fits in with your established lifestyle that you can stick with for at least three months.
3. Reward yourself
There may be an item of clothing, a spa treatment or a gadget that you’ve been coveting and that no one had the insight to buy you for Christmas. If that’s the case, be grateful it wasn’t bought for you and use it as the motivational carrot to encourage you to stay with the new movement program you’ve set up.
Decide on a milestone – it could be the total of steps since you started, it may be the number of extra calories you’re using or simply the number of weeks you’ve stuck with your new program and then reward yourself with the prize.
Make sure the target you set is not too easy nor too hard – ideally at least a month into the year – and then pick yourself a new prize and set a slightly more challenging goal to meet before next time round.
4. Think collectively
There will always be days where negative thinking, bad weather, business meetings and more besides interfere with your program. When this happens take a breath and take stock. The key to long-term weight management and well-being is long-term behaviour and lifestyle choices.
Accept there will be bad days and then think collectively about all you’re doing each week to get to your goals.
Whenever this happens at the very least stick to the remaining challenges you’ve set yourself on subsequent days. If in addition you can make up the movement you’ve lost, consider it a bonus.
5. Build more movement into every day and established habits and hobbies
Simple and subtle changes can have an incredible impact on a person’s calorific needs during the day. Standing rather than sitting, taking the stairs rather than the lift, jumping off the bus a stop earlier are obvious and easy examples of building extra movement.
Household chores like cleaning and gardening are also fantastic calorie burners so don’t wait for spring to have that deep clean or for summer to sort the garden – get going with the dusters, brooms, rakes and spades more often and for longer. You’ll move more, use calories and enjoy your home comforts all the more.
When you settle in for the evening, try trading the sofa for a stepper or trot on the treadmill when you watch your favourite telly program.
And if you have a group of friends who meet regularly for drinks and catch ups, suggest going for a walk and talk instead. It’ll get you away from the wine and nibbles as well as getting you all going.
6. Find a new fitness activity you enjoy to move more
So far every suggestion has been about making simple but sustained adaptions to your normal activity to introduce more movement. Because that is really all it takes to ensure a manageable and effective addition of movement to your ordinary week.
If in addition you have time to try something new, then we recommend you do. Salsa, indoor biking, step, HIIT, boot camps, line dancing, Yoga, Pilates, rock climbing – there is so much choice out there these days.
You may love the first thing you try, you may try ten different things before you decide, you may be even more difficult to please than that! But in the process, you’ll move more and move differently to how you’ve done before and supplement the movement of your habitual life with movement from more novel pursuits.
7. Continually refine and revise
As you carry on setting and meeting your move more targets you’ll soon see how easy it is to make marginal tweaks that over the long-term result in magnificent differences in your well-being and weight.
Once you’ve got to a level of movement that is genuinely second nature, see if you can move the goal posts to move even more. It may only be an extra 50 steps a day, but these will soon add up and build up to an even better you.
The key is to challenge yourself on a gradual basis – it will be the key to your success throughout the year. Do this and by 2019 you will no longer feel a need to make a fitness-related resolution because you’ll be moving as much as you need to already!