Why You Should Make Exercise Your New Year’s Resolution
By Carrie Powell, PhD
The first day of a new year may spark feelings of motivation, often prompting one to ponder: “What will be my resolution this year?” Popular resolutions – including exercise, healthy eating or spending more time with family – are sometimes overlooked in lieu of something more easily attained, like having more fun or getting to work on time. Perhaps you have made the mental commitment to exercise before but never quite made it to the gym. Maybe you never even put on the tennis shoes you bought. You are not alone!
Here’s why you should consider giving exercise another chance to be the best resolution you ever made.
- You already have the shoes. You do not need a fancy gym membership or elliptical machine to reach your goals. Instead, create goals that fit your life the way it is right now. Beginning an exercise routine is a huge life change for most people. Your first goal should be to establish a routine and find something you like to do, like walking. Eventually, you can work up to a jog and go from there!
- Your brain will thank you. Exercise is a great way to keep your brain sharp. Older adults who exercise regularly are better able to recall verbal information, like names or phone numbers.
- You may perform better at work. Regular exercise can make you feel more energetic and attentive and can even improve your performance at work. A 2006 study, called “The Psychology of Exercise,” by Jim Gavin, Daniel Seguin, and Madeleine McBrearty, suggests that people who exercise three to four times per week outperform non-exercisers and have lower rates of absenteeism.
- Your mood will improve. People who exercise regularly experience decreased rates of depression and anxiety. Women who exercise report higher rates of self-acceptance, regardless of body shape. Exercising also reduces stress and tension by triggering the release of brain chemicals that help us relax.
- You will sleep better. Sleep is one of the most important things we do as humans, and people who exercise report getting better sleep than couch potatoes. As little as 10 minutes of exercise can boost your sleep quality!
- You can include your kids. One popular (and valid) reason for dropping an exercise resolution is time. Parents are constantly balancing schedules for themselves and their children, alternating between school, sports, activities and homework. It is exhausting! Exercise is important for them, too, so bring them with you. Find a park with a walking track nearby and get moving while they play. Go for bike rides or play catch in the yard. Find events they can do with you, like a 5K walk/run. You will improve their lives and set a healthy example for them at the same time!
- You can set your own goals. Picking an exercise goal may feel like a daunting task to someone who hasn’t moved off the couch since Thanksgiving. Find something to work toward, and then plan the steps you will take to get there. Each day, devote yourself to making a baby step toward your goal. Remember that big goals take weeks or months to reach, so start now! Want to walk or run a 5K for the first time? Do it! If you know someone who runs regularly, ask them how they got started. Runners love to talk about running, so be prepared to take notes!
- You can find social inspiration. People are more likely to show up when they are being held accountable by someone else. Find a buddy that will meet you at the gym or on the street. Pick someone who is also a beginner and actively encourage each other to stick to the program. Exercising together can strengthen friendships and relationships through shared fitness goals.
- You will experience real health benefits. Exercise boosts your immune system and significantly lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. Increased exercise may also lead to a leaner beach body this summer, but weight loss should not be your ultimate goal. People who focus on weight loss tend to give up easily because the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Stay off your scale and pick up a measuring tape instead.
Wondering where to start? Find a buddy or two (or three!) and sign up for a “couch to 5K” training program. Then, find an event that is several weeks away and get to work! When you cross the finish line, you will have completed your New Year’s resolution! Don’t stop there, who knows how far you will go if you keep moving!
At Psychology & Counseling, we offer counseling and mental health assessments. Following diagnosis, we work with you to determine the best course of treatment and counseling for you. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (601) 261-1650.
Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding counseling or mental health, please contact Psychology & Counseling to make an appointment.