The key is to be realistic, hold yourself accountable, make a plan and do it for your mental health.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-area gyms are no stranger to new faces in the new year, as new members join hoping to accomplish their fitness-themed New Year’s resolutions. But those new faces hardly become familiar ones. 

Research from the University of Scranton finds as many as 80% of Americans who set New Year’s resolutions give them up before February. A survey from the online fitness platform Strava found most people ditch their resolutions two weeks into the new year, prompting the creation of Quitter’s Day which falls on the second Friday of every New Year. 

As Jan. 1 grows further away, health and fitness experts hope to motivate goal-setters to stay committed to their fitness resolutions. 

“I think the most important thing we can do for ourselves is [to] take care of our body and exercise is a great way to do that,” head exercise specialist at CoreLife Healthcare in Charlotte Dominique Harris said. 

Experts say there are several ways people can keep themselves motivated to get fit, starting before even creating resolutions. 

Be realistic

Health experts believe the key to keeping up with New Year’s resolutions is setting realistic goals and realizing it may take more time than expected.

“We want to make it a lifestyle,” Harris said. “We don’t want it to be a short-term fix. Even though you put the weight on in three months, it’s not going to take three months to take off.”

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Many experts recommend creating incremental and measurable goals, ones that can be tracked by reaching specific milestones.  

“I don’t want you to come in and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to work out six days a week, and I’m going to go strong,’” Harris said. “Why don’t we start with one day a week? Why don’t we start with maybe 30 minutes a day? Start small, and then once you’re kind of consistent. Then try to go from there.” 

Health professionals say smaller goals that lead to larger ones will give people reasons to stay motivated along their fitness journey. 

Hold yourself accountable, have others do so too 

At OrangeTheory Fitness, a workout studio chain with 17 locations in Charlotte, group exercise classes are the main focus. Trainers there say working out with an instructor and around others is a great way to make sure others are ensuring the goals set are kept in check. 

“Our coaches are going to hold you accountable when you’re in the studio,” regional sales manager for OrangeTheory Fitness Jennifer Barrett said. “They’re going to follow up with you if they don’t see you in here to make sure they get you back in the doors and hold you accountable with your workout routine.” 

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Other experts agree having an accountability partner like a friend, family member or a trained professional can provide a motivating force. 

“Set accountability maybe we have an accountability person to keep you in check,” Harris said. “Maybe it’s coming in to see an exercise specialist or see a personal trainer so we can be in tune with your goals and plans.”

Have a plan

Professionals at CoreLife, an organization focused on using fitness and nutrition to treat medical issues, say creating a personalized plan is important for their patients tackling problems like obesity. They say planning is just as important for anyone hoping to accomplish their fitness goals and resolutions.

“My biggest piece of advice is to write a plan of attack,” Harris said. “Say ‘OK, before I go to the gym, this is the exercise I’m going to do, these are the machines I’m going to do,’ so you’re not walking around randomly.” 

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The Mayo Clinic said when writing a fitness program, it’s important for people to assess their fitness level and record baselines to measure their progress. The organization also said creating a balanced routine including both moderate and vigorous exercise every week can help a person lose weight and keep it off. 

Don’t just get physically fit, but mentally, too 

While experts agree sticking to fitness goals is necessary for physical health, they also say it can be important for mental health, as well. 

A 2018 UCLA study found people who exercise experience 40% fewer days with stress, depression or emotional concerns monthly than those who do not exercise. OrangeTheory Fitness staff said they see this impact all the time. 

“The transformations we see from our members and our staff members just from getting in here and moving their body is beyond a number you can see on the scale,” Barrett said. “It’s important to invest in your overall health. It’s not just the physical aspect.”

Harris said exercise can be a good way to disconnect from and tune out the world. People should use it as a way to motivate themselves to stick to fitness goals and treat it as a time to focus on themselves. She recommended listening to a favorite podcast, listening to an audiobook or talking to a friend during workouts.

Harris said, most of all, working out should be enjoyable.

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