New Year’s resolutions can pile up quick and forgotten about like clueless relatives’ unwanted Christmas presents. According to a usa.gov poll, losing weight is the top resolution made by Americans every year.

How many people actually reach their goals? Psychology Today reported dismal answers. In the 45 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent achieve them. About 24 percent don’t last past a week.

Three Ball state professors who work in the field of exercise science agreed that it’s about setting realistic and clear goals. Too many people lose traction because they don’t know what goal they want to reach or how to get there, and they often dive in too fast.

“Take it slow, don’t go too fast,” Sarah Shore-Beck, a physical education instructor, said. “We always joke that by February, the gym is dead again. It’s about making a go-to routine.”

THE SCIENCE OF FITNESS

Nicole Koontz, an exercise science instructor and assistant director of Ball State’s Adult Physical Fitness Program, said if weight loss is someone’s goal, it’s all about input and output.

She said 1 pound equals about 3,500 calories. If someone wanted to lose a pound a week, they would need to burn 500 calories per day. Losing 1 to 2 pounds a week is the best way to slim down, Koontz said.

She said ideally, every exercise routine should have three components to be the most effective: aerobic, strength training and flexibility.

“It’s about setting your priorities straight,” Koontz said. “People think, ‘I’m still young, I don’t have to worry about this now.’ But this is the best time to start thinking about your health and wellness.”

Shore-Beck is a master instructor at the American Council on Exercise and conducts personal training.

She suggested doing an equal amount cardio and strength training even if the goal is simply weight loss.

“The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn in the long run,” Shore-Beck said. “You actually burn excess calories post workout.”

She said doing a brisk walk to class for 15 minutes a day can be a students’ cardio portion and then they can focus the other 15 minutes on strength training.

GETTING IN MOTION

Among the Netflix binge-watching and long hours of working on class assignments, hours can go by without moving an inch. In 2012, two U.K. universities conducted a study of almost 800,000 people that found sitting for long periods of time increases risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and even death.

“It can turn into a big problem if someone sits in front of the computer for hours without moving,” said Selen Razon, a sport and exercise psychology assistant professor. “That’s just not how our bodies are meant to work.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said adults need 150 minutes of exercise each week, which is a little more than 21 minutes every day.

While watching television, Koontz suggested getting active during commercial breaks.

“With two 10-pound weights, you can exercise your shoulders, abs, legs and back in one sitting,” she said.

STICKING WITH IT

Keeping up the resolution in the long haul isn’t always easy. Koontz said there are five stages to beginning a new, active lifestyle: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

Razon said lapsing is common, whether it’s a workout beginner or an athletic fitness devotee.

“People shouldn’t feel bad when they relapse — it happens, it’s common,” she said. “It’s important to know when it happens and what are the things that trigger relapses. During exams or times of stress, I see people relapse or quit exercising. But it’s really sad because when you’re stressed, the best thing to do is to exercise.”

Shore-Beck said people plateau in their workouts normally around the sixth week.

“It’s when your body gets used to it, you know there needs to be a change,” Shore-Beck said. “You need to change up the routine and keep it fresh so you don’t get bored and plateau.”

BETTER BODY, BETTER BRAIN

Razon pointed out that there’s more psychological benefits that come with getting fit, like self-esteem improvement and the endorphins that are secreted through the body during exercise, which create feelings of happiness.

A 2013 study conducted by the Ball State School of Exercise Psychology showed aerobic exercise improves test scores. Razon said out of the 60 Ball State students tested, the ones who did cardio workouts had higher scores on cognitive tests afterward.

“It’s about getting the heart pumping,” she said. “Exercise really is the magic pill.”


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