Out of the 45 percent of people who make New Year's resolutions each year, only 8 percent actually succeed. Of the most popular types of resolutions, the two highest involve some level of fitness or healthy lifestyle adoption, with 47 percent of people making vows to self-improve and another 38 percent making weight-related goals.
So why do we quit? Why is the initial enthusiasm followed by the sad realization of failure?
Below are four reasons people quit on fitness goals, and wisdom on how to solve them.
1. Life's Hectic
Between work, family and personal time, it's easy to run out of hours in the day. Using lack of time or a busy schedule as an excuse is just that, an excuse. We're the makers of our destiny. It's up to us to determine how we spend our time. If your mindset is that there's no time for exercise, well, of course there won't be.
Squash all potential excuses immediately. Think back to how you spent the last week or month. How often were you doing something you didn't want to do? How much of your time was spent on activities that you deem more important than fitness, such as spending time with family or catching up with an old friend?
Analyzing where all the hours in your day goes is an excellent way to highlight convenient fitness opportunities.
For example, let's say you get an hour each day to eat lunch. Cut that down to 20 or 30 minutes and get your heart rate going for the other half. The rest of your schedule will remain unchanged and you'll get a midday adrenaline boost to go back to work with.
If you want to get your exercise out of the way before you leave the house or late into the wee hours, consider purchasing some home fitness resources. Anything from a simple dance fitness DVD to the advanced exercise bikes Peloton offers -- which connect fitness-goers with other Peloton riders in live or recorded instructor led-cycling classes -- should do the trick.
2. No Accountability or Consequences to Quitting
A study done by Stanford University in 2010 aimed to find just how important social support -- even in small doses -- was to people trying to forge new fitness habits.
In the study, 218 people were split into three groups: those that would receive a call from a Stanford health educator every three weeks for a year, those that would receive a similar call but from a computer making human-like inquiries, and finally, those that would not receive any call monitoring their fitness progress.
After 12 months, participants in the first group were exercising 178 minutes a week, more than the government-recommended 150 minutes. Participants in the second group were above the fold as well, with 157 minutes a week. The third group, while still maintaining exercise habits, exercised 118 minutes a week.
This means that it's easier to quit when we've only made a pact with ourselves, and thus have nobody else to disappoint.
If you find that you let yourself off the hook too easily, maybe it's time to take a few personal training sessions. Or you can sign up for that Zumba class you've been peaking in on for weeks. You'll be likelier to keep attending classes once you've met your instructor and other classmates.
Likewise, when you pay for a personal trainer, they'll keep checking up on you whether you continue to pay for sessions or not.
3. Unrealistic Expectations / Starting Too Big Too Quickly
If your big fitness pledge is to hit the gym five times a week when you've had little to no prior experience working out, you're most likely going to fail.
Start small and work your way up. Instead of committing to five gym visits a week, start with two visits. On those first few visits, don't stay that long.
The immediate goal is to leave while you're still craving more. You can use this as motivation fuel for your next visit, and continue building the habit to the point where you can't wait to get your next workout in.
Even short-term fitness goals require complete lifestyle changes, otherwise the point is moot. While it can be helpful to have a precise goal behind your efforts, the motivation should be organic to who you are and what you truly want, not something you're looking to avoid (e.g., working out to avoid looking fat at the beach versus working out to feel healthier as summer and all its outdoor activities come around).
4. Unenjoyable Workouts
All too often people complain about particular machine exercises or the monotonous nature of the treadmill, and with good reason, those exercises can be quite boring. But if you never take the time to ask yourself how you would enjoy working out, you can't really blame your lack of motivation on the type of workout you're doing.
Listen to yourself and what you want. The treadmill (for a lot of people) does suck, so maybe find an outdoor track, or play high-cardio sports like basketball.
The body is a complex system and there isn't any one way to work out. Running, swimming, biking, weightlifting, aerobics, dancing, yoga, and even walking can have great effects over a period of time.
Find what you enjoy, and tweak your workouts to reflect that.
There's no exact way to stay fit, it's all about understanding your excuses and preconceived barriers to fitness, and squashing them in their tracks. Of course, if it were easy, everyone would be the fittest versions of themselves, but the key to staying committed to fitness goals is finding your sweet spot and what motivates you to continue in your physical pursuits.