As we embark on a start to yet another new year, many of us consider what changes we’d like to see over the next 365. For some, these changes are subtle, such as reading more books or taking more trips to places you’ve never traveled, however, for the vast majority, fitness is top of mind for new years resolutions. In fact, one survey by Forbes Health/One Poll found that nearly half (48 percent) of adults surveyed reported that fitness was a top resolution followed by improved finances (38 percent), improved mental health (36 percent), weight loss (34 percent) and improved diet (32 percent).
From these results, it’s clear to see that health is top of mind for so many around the new year. So if you’re looking to jumpstart your wellness routine as you head into 2024, you’re far from alone. That being said, few actually follow through with these health goals that they set out for themselves.
Building a Sustainable Wellness Routine
Many individuals make new year’s resolutions but struggle to follow through with them for various reasons. One common factor, according to Bill Daniels, C.S.C.S., C.P.T., founder of Beyond Fitness, is setting unrealistic goals or expectations. “People often feel motivated and optimistic at the start of the year, leading them to make ambitious resolutions, however, as the initial enthusiasm wears off, they may realize that their goals are too challenging or unsustainable, leading to abandonment,” he says.
“The human psyche is very complex—in the moment of reset, we have big ambitions and think we can accomplish the diet and exercise, but, as we get into the long haul of it, we start prioritizing short-term pleasures like treats and rest over long-term pleasures like losing weight and feeling better.”
The key is to establish a wellness routine that’s tangible and something that you can easily carry, not only into the new year, but throughout the full year ahead and beyond. In addition to setting realistic and attainable goals, taking a gradual approach allows for long-term habit formation rather than short-lived changes, Daniels explains.
Experts share easy strategies to help you kick off your new year on a healthy foot:
1. Start small
Instead of having an all-or-nothing mentality, Alicia Jones, National Coach of Canada (NCCP), Advanced Sport Nutrition, Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Personal Training Specialist, recommends setting small yet small and doable goals for yourself. Instead of setting a lofty goal of losing 50 pounds by the end of the year, consider something like making your meals at home Monday through Friday. “That way you’re incorporating something that really can fit into your actual lifestyle—and that is more doable for your reset,” Jones adds.
2. Prepare ahead of time
If your wellness goals involve nutrition, Daniels recommends taking the time to plan and prepare your meals in advance. “This strategy can help you make healthier food choices, save time, and reduce the likelihood of relying on unhealthy convenience options,” he says. “Having nutritious meals readily available encourages healthier eating habits and prevents impulsive or unhealthy choices.”
3. Prioritize physical activity
Planning is also crucial for your exercise goals. First, Daniels recommends finding an activity you enjoy, whether it’s walking, cycling, dancing, or any other form of exercise, and incorporating it into your routine. “Set aside specific time slots for physical activity and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your fitness level improves,” he says. “Making physical activity a priority helps establish the habit and promotes a healthier lifestyle.”
4. Incorporate self care
Self-care involves setting boundaries to dedicate time to prioritize nourishing nutrition, sleep, exercise, and managing stress, explains Michelle Routhenstein, R.D.N., Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Preventive Cardiology Dietitian at EntirelyNourished.com. “Without prioritizing self-care, external factors or others’ needs can easily derail our health goals.,” she says. “To make this a priority, establish a routine that caters to your health requirements—for instance, incorporating exercise into specific mornings and treating it as a non-negotiable part of your schedule.”