Many will try to make New Year’s resolutions a reality

The New Year always brings a fresh focus on life and allows us to start from a clean slate. Since my birthday is in January, it is not only a new calendar year but also marks the beginning of another year of my journey through this life. As I give pause to reflect on where I am in life, think of friends and loved ones that are no longer here, and reflect on what is really important, I am glad I have been working out for the last 39 years and in the fitness business now for 35 years.

My father died at the young age of 44. Technically that is a health risk factor for me, but I do take comfort in the fact that unlike him, I don’t smoke, don’t eat a lot of fried food and try to maintain a somewhat regular workout regimen. I am glad that fitness has been a part of my life since I was 14. I sometimes joke that I used to workout because I wanted to, but now I do it because I have to!

Life is better for those who exercise. The proof is undeniable. The benefits of regular exercise are inspiring people of all ages to join the exercise movement. Since the 1980s, the number of health club members has more than tripled to approximately 45 million Americans. In 1996, the Surgeon General issued a landmark report that likened a lack of physical activity to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. The report concluded, “Americans can substantially improve their health and quality of life by including moderate amounts of physical activity in their daily lives.”

As we close 2012 and begin 2013, our gym will see the annual resurgence in numbers, as members resolve to begin 2013 on a much healthier note than they finished 2012. For many year-round active exercisers, it has become a standing joke that these ‘resolutioners’ will get started and then fall out within a short period of time. Present research however shows a different story.

You are not alone in making resolutions. It is estimated that approximately 40 to 50 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Repeated resolutions may feel discouraging, but success rates for those making resolutions are as much as 10 times higher than those that desire to change, but do not make resolutions. Success rates for multiple attempts are higher than for single attempts.

For those that set resolutions and are successful, they learn to overcome barriers that have prevented them in their past attempts. Don’t become discouraged over setbacks, which should be expected and used as a learning experience. Avoid the “all-or-nothing” mindset and instead plan ahead for potential road blocks. For example, if finding time is a common stumbling block, select activities requiring minimal time such as walking or stair climbing. Identify available time slots in your schedule and take advantage of them even if it’s only 10 minutes at a time. Even if it is not your typical workout, finding ways to infuse activity into your day is a positive step and will provide benefits.

Resolutions are just a means of goal setting, which is a very important step for successful change. Both short-term (1 week to 1 month) and long term (6 months to 5 years) goals should be determined. As an example, a short term goal might be to walk 15 minutes during your lunch hour each day for the upcoming week. Build successive and progressive short term goals to reach long term goals.

Like most of my clients, I too am susceptible to the barriers that get in the way of regular exercise. That said, these challenges will not prevent me from striving to meet my fitness goals for 2013. I will continue to also set those yearly resolutions, even some that I have been carrying over every year since 1985. I challenge you to do the same.

As an Albany Herald reader of this fitness article, you are probably well aware of exercise’s many benefits, but my bet is that you have a friend or family member you care about deeply who isn’t. May I suggest that you invite them to join you on your next workout. Consider it your own personal health care initiative.

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine and has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years.