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Keeping That Resolution To Exercise

Many new and returning exercisers are already floundering in their attempts to
stick to New Year's resolutions regarding fitness goals. That being the case,
fulfilling realistic resolutions without getting swamped by life's many
distractions might be as psychologically rewarding as the exercise is
physically rewarding.

An article in the Penn State Sports Medicine Newsletter suggests that as many
as half of the people who begin an exercise program drop out within six
months. Even dedicated exercisers may get temporarily or permanently
sidetracked by sudden changes in their personal circumstances.

David Yukelson, Ph.D., a Penn State sports psychologist and member of the
Newsletter's editorial board, describes some of the forces working against
exercisers at all levels.

"Most exercisers are committed," Yukelson told the newsletter. "They set goals
and they take pride in the accomplishment of sustaining an exercise program.
Setting realistic goals is very important.

"While beginning exercisers frequently try to do too much too quickly, some
veterans spend too much time trying to achieve goals that are not consistent
with their age, available time, or responsibilities. Each person has to settle
into a program that is reasonable in terms of frequency, duration, and

Yukelson also advises that programs be individualized according to the
activities the exerciser enjoys, since no one is likely to continue doing
something they consider oppressive, regardless of the health benefits. If the
individual does not enjoy jogging, cycling or swimming, alternative exercises
can still be found.

Furthermore, support from spouses, family and peers leads to adherence. People
are more likely to make exercise a habit when they have partners or colleagues
who agree on its importance than would otherwise be the case.

Other barriers to fitness goals include time, travel, expense, facilities and
work demands, but despite it all, exercise should be scheduled or it might
never happen. Travelers can look for hotel, public or club facilities in the
cities they are visiting. If the cost of joining a health club is prohibitive,
exercisers can look into lower cost memberships at YMCA, YWCA, college, or
church facilities.

Understanding the benefits of starting or continuing an exercise program is a
good first step, but the Newsletter article suggests that getting past the
intellectual preliminaries and focusing on the program itself makes a big
mental difference. Holding firm to one's resolve for more than six months
could make exercise a lifelong habit.

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