Out with the Old: Making Physical Activity Resolutions Stick


Written on behalf of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

Making New Year’s resolutions is easy, but like most things in life, consistent follow through is what may create results and sustain positive change. People of all ages and abilities benefit from physical activity.  As a health care professional, you’re in a good position to encourage patients and clients, including those with physical disabilities, to get the New Year off to a healthy start. Here are strategies you can share to help them stick with their physical activity goals after New Year’s resolutions begin to fade and old habits resurface.

Tap into motivation. The health benefits of regular physical activity are too great to overlook. Regular physical activity may help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Staying active may also boost energy, mood, and overall health. Encourage patients and clients to make a list of these benefits and keep them where they can easily review them. Tracking their progress with a journal, website, or mobile app may also help them stay motivated.

Encourage goal-setting and planning. Setting achievable goals and following through by taking small steps to realize them may increase the likelihood of success. For instance, a plan to achieve the goal of being active on most days of the week may involve walking 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week and gradually building up to 5 days. A plan to join a gym and take classes 7 days a week may be harder to keep up long-term. Those confined to a wheelchair may try wheelchair aerobics, gradually adding more time to the routine.

Discuss the value of sharing their goals and plan. Publicly sharing New Year’s resolutions may be an effective motivator. Friends and family members can serve as a social support system and encourage those who feel tempted to quit.

Stress the importance of doing what they love. Encourage patients and clients to find an activity they truly enjoy, which will make them more likely to stick with it. Recommend finding a workout buddy with similar goals to become more active.

Push the backup plan. Remind patients and clients to have a “Plan B.” If their physical activity is outdoors, walking at a mall or swimming at a local recreation center or high school is a possible alternative in bad weather. Another option is an upper-body workout with weights or resistance bands.

Reinforce that setbacks are normal. Remind patients and clients that everyone faces setbacks and that the key is to not get discouraged. Encourage them to restart their efforts to meet their goals and reinforce that change takes time. Their efforts will pay off with patience and persistence.

The NIDDK has tools and information to help adults and youth change their health habits and realize their health goals by getting and staying active, eating healthy, and managing their weight. The NIDDK sponsors research on how eating, physical activity, and other factors affect health and weight; and how to treat weight-related health problems such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease. Follow the NIDDK on Facebook and Twitter for updates about resources, research, and other activities.

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