How to Keep Up With New Year’s Resolution to Exercise

Why is it so hard to keep up with New Year’s resolutions to get more exercise?

One reason may be that your motivation to exercise fluctuates from week to week, and these fluctuations are linked to your behavior.

Researchers at Penn State examined college students’ intentions to be physically active as well as their actual activity levels.

They recruited 33 college students and assessed the students’ weekly intentions to be physically active and their activity levels over a 10-week period.

They found that “our motivation to be physically active changes on a weekly basis because we have so many demands on our time,” said David Conroy, professor of kinesiology, at Penn State.

“Maybe one week we’re sick or we have a work deadline — or, in the case of students, an upcoming exam.

But these lapses in motivation really seem to be destructive.

Our results suggest that people with consistently strong intentions to exercise have the best chance of actually following through on their intentions, while people with the greatest fluctuations in their motivation have the hardest time using that motivation to regulate their behavior.”

The researchers reported their results in the current issue of the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Regarding New Year’s resolutions, Conroy advised that you focus less on making broad commitments to becoming more active and instead come up with a plan for how you are going to sustain your motivation from one week to the next.

“It is important to pay attention to how we can sustain a high level of motivation and not just let that motivation degrade in response to all the external demands we face,” said Conroy.

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