Why you should stop setting New Year's resolutions to exercise

Christmas is just around the corner, but have you started thinking about your New Year’s resolutions yet?

As most of us get ready to scoff down mince pies and dream of the delicious turkey trimmings to come, many people are also preparing for the rigorous health kick that follows in January.

It’s tradition, after all: new year, new you, new fitness routine (and maybe a vegan diet, too).

However, it might be worth jump-starting this health life a bit earlier than you’d planned – like now.

‘But what about all the Christmas events/food/alcohol/fun,’ you shout.

We are in no way suggesting that you give up the bliss of mulled wine and Quality Street throughout December, but committing to a health and well-being routine ahead of the festive period could help you in the long-run.

To start with, New Year’s resolutions tend to fail, according to research; a study by US News from 2017 revealed that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail before February.

In 2018, we even had a date set for when people were most likely to quit, with 12 January marked as ‘Quitter’s Day’ by Strava, a social network for athletes.

One of the main reasons people often break resolutions is because these form part of a special effort to improve something in our lives in one swoop fell, rather than introducing it as part of our day-to-day life.

It can be difficult to maintain your motivation if you’re going from zero to 100 within the space of one day.

‘December is your chance to optimise your fitness,’ celebrity trainer and fitness entrepreneur Matt Fiddes, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘We are all feeling happy and jolly and it is the perfect time to channel that positivity into your physical and mental health.

‘But don’t overdue things – December is the busiest time in the social calendar and by burning the candle at both ends you will just get ill, but by even committing to three 30 minute intensive workout sessions per week you will feel a massive difference.

‘The key motivator here is your metabolism which is boosted for a number of hours post workout. If your heart rate hits a certain level you will continue to burn calories afterwards, which means you will less likely pile on the pounds after an indulgent meal.’

In other words, you can enjoy the constant holiday snacking, knowing that your body is just that bit better prepared for it.

This doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself during the Christmas season; it’s about balance.

You don’t necessarily need to join a gym, but just being more active helps and that includes winter walks in the park, a run around the neighbourhood or going sledding with the kids.

For those who want to kick things up a notch, strength training is useful, according to Elliott Upton, senior personal trainer at Ultimate Performance.

‘Strength training, in particular, will help you burn more calories, build muscle tissue which increases your metabolism, and help keep you more insulin sensitive, which gives you more stable blood sugar and better”‘real” energy levels and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight,’ he tells us.

‘Exercising regularly over Christmas will mean you’re less likely to slip into bad habits which would then be harder to shake off come the New Year.

‘Overall, maintaining healthy habits year-round is a better and more sustainable way to do things, rather than going from one extreme to the other between Christmas and New Year.’

Top tips for how to start your fitness routine now

  • Stay active: aim for 10,000 steps per day, whether that’s from a winter walk with the family, a morning run during your time off, or generally being active.
  • Lift weights: a 45-60-minute full-body workout using compound movements, such as deadlifts, squats, presses and rows, is a great way to burn calories, build muscle and improve your body composition
  • Eat well: focus the lion’s share of your meals around a healthy source of protein, plenty of fresh vegetables and healthy fats, and keep your carbs for post-workout or the final meal of the day when you might be having a family dinner.
  • Drink plenty of water every day

Source: Elliott Upton at Ultimate Performance

If you do decide to join the gym – or just attend more regularly – there’s another benefit to starting now: less crowds.

Data by the fitness clothing brand Half Human, which analysed Google searches for gym memberships in 2018, showed that these spike in the first week of January, but are at their lowest at the end of November and in early December.

If you find the gym intimidating, this is the perfect opportunity to get set up and settled in before the rush, and you can book in personal training sessions before schedules fill up.

January is also often seen as a month when people don’t want to spend money, because so much cash has gone towards the Christmas festivities.

Sure, you might still pay that expensive gym joining fee next month, but if you get it done now, you won’t need to worry about it or risk back-tracking when you’re tight for cash.

Instead of setting yourself hardcore rules for the beginning of the year, make a plan now and take small steps towards it – whether that’s a yoga class every week or simply deciding to eat more vegetables with your meals on a daily basis.

You could even give it a festive spin: rope your friends and family into going caroling with you around the neighbourhood, go ice skating or wander around a Christmas market for hours.

If you’re moving, it still counts.

Don’t make your fitness into a one-month fad, but adapt it so that it becomes part of your life – for good.

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