How to Maintain Your New Year's resolutions

Walking with BikeLiz Linder Photography

Biking can be a great way to exercise while exploring the campus.

We all know how easy it is to make a New Year’s resolution - and how hard it is to keep it. As students start the spring semester with busy schedules, homework and other daily challenges, many find their resolutions drifting away.

According to professor Margie Lachman, director of the Lifespan lab and the Boston Roybal Center for Active Lifestyle Interventions at Brandeis, regular physical activity is important for students to promote psychological well-being and health.

Lachman studies the interplay of psychological well-being, physical health and cognitive functioning. Her research aims to identify ways to prevent or slow declines that may come as we age.

She says a diet culture promotes the mistaken belief that exercise is only good for weight loss, rather than an effective way to promote success and well-being in all areas of life.

“Exercise is one of the best ingredients for psychological, physical, and cognitive health,” said Lachman.

Set attainable goals for short term results

When setting new goals, people assume they must go big. “People often bite off too much to chew in the beginning,” said Lachman.

The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, and Lachman argues that a healthy routine can be as simple as going on 5 30-minute brisk walks each week.

“There’s a myth that people need to walk 10,000 steps a day to reap benefits,” she said. “In reality, even just 5,000 and 7,000 steps a day is a healthy addition.”

Since lifestyles and schedules vary, an exercise plan should be flexible and personalized. “Some people may prefer a strict weekly schedule while others may prefer to vary when and how they exercise,” said Lachman.

Lachman advises following an exercise plan with small, buildable goals. Smaller goals lead to quicker results. “Seeing positive change and some success is crucial for incorporating exercise into a healthy lifestyle,” said Lachman. “People who don’t see results are likely to feel discouraged and less inclined to continue their routine and increase their goals.”

Hold yourself accountable

Accountability is key to maintaining an exercise routine. A tracking system is an excellent daily reminder. Popular devices like Apple watches and Fitbit are a great way to track daily steps, heart rate, and other factors, but Lachman says there are other accessible devices for recording progress. “A simple pedometer can be as useful as the more pricey gadgets,” said Lachman.

Social exercising is another way to build  accountability. “Studies show that people who exercise with others are more inclined to stick with it because they feel they are being held accountable and don’t want to let others down,” said Lachman. There are also online ways to exercise with friends, such as holding competitions using apps and social media. “Competition is a fun and healthy way to keep people feeling motivated.”

Do exercise you enjoy

“It’s hard to keep doing something that you don’t enjoy,” said Lachman. To some, the thought of exercise can be dreadful. Lachman recommends exploring different activities to find something that sparks joy. Students can explore the different opportunities within Brandeis Athletics, joining a recreational club, trying a fitness class, or joining a team sport on campus. Those who prefer to exercise alone or with a partner can also use the equipment in the Gosman Center. Students may also choose to take a walk or bike around the lovely Brandeis campus. Those hills can add to the aerobic benefits!

Lachman also recommends pairing exercise with another form of joy, such as entertainment. While the idea of going for a walk or lifting weights may not be exciting to some, exercising while listening to music or a podcast, watching a favorite TV series, or asking a friend to join your workout can make it something to look forward to.

Whatever exercise you choose, it should be an enjoyable addition to your life, said Lachman. “That way you will feel like you are missing out on something if you don’t keep up with it.”

Categories: Student Life

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