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50% of Americans Want to Exercise More in 2024: How to Make That Resolution Stick, According to Science

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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Picture this: It’s the crack of dawn on January 1st, 2024. Half of America (yes, 50%)wakes up with the same burning resolution – to get moving more. And why not? We know the endless benefits of regular exercise – better health, improved mood, and that enviable energy boost.

But while many of us are fantastic at setting these fitness goals, the real challenge lies in keeping that gym bag ready beyond February.

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It’s tough.

That’s why understanding the science behind habit formation and goal achievement is crucial. Today we’ll look deep into proven, scientific ways to help us in our quest for better health, looks, and energy.

Why Most Resolutions Fall Flat

New Year’s resolutions crumble faster than a chalk block in a Crossfit gym. The culprits? Unrealistic goals, absence of a solid plan, and a lack of progress tracking. 

80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail


Here’s How to Make Your Next Resolution a Success

Start in December (like, today), not on January 1st

Starting your New Year’s resolution in December offers several advantages. By initiating your goals a month earlier, you can gain a head start and begin the process of habit formation before the new year commences.

This early start allows for a more gradual and realistic approach to goal setting, enabling you to make any necessary adjustments and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

Furthermore, beginning in December can help you enter the new year with a sense of accomplishment and motivation, setting the stage for a more positive and empowered start to the year. 

Make It a Habit

Setting a goal is one thing; wiring your brain to achieve it is another. Habit formation and goal setting are deeply psychological processes. It’s about creating neural pathways in your brain – think of it as muscle memory for your mind.

Every time you stick to your workout, you’re reinforcing this pathway, making it easier to maintain that habit over time. It’s like perfecting your snatch technique – practice makes permanent.

The key is to take advantage of the  3-step neurological process that creates a habit. First, choose a cue, like leaving your running shoes by the door, then pick a reward — say, a piece of chocolate when you get home from the gym. Eventually, when you see the shoes, your brain will start craving the reward, which will make it easier to work out day after day.

Charles Duhigg, Award-winning reporter and habit expert
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Setting the Right Exercise Goals

Choose Specific, Realistic Targets (SMART Goals)

Vague goals like “exercise more” are as useful as a kettlebell with no handle. Tailor your goals to fit your lifestyle, interests, and fitness level.

For example, if running a marathon feels daunting, how about starting with a 5K? Or, if lifting weights isn’t your jam, perhaps a thrice-weekly yoga session could be your thing. The point is: choose something you can measure and realistically achieve.

Make your goal super-defined, aka SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Break Down Goals into Manageable Steps

Next, let’s chop these goals into bite-sized pieces. Picture a Crossfit WOD; it’s a series of small, manageable tasks. If your target is to hit the gym four times a week, start with twice a week, then gradually notch it up.

Each mini-goal you achieve brings a sense of accomplishment, keeping the motivation high. Remember, every rep counts.

Frame Your Resolution positively

A study in PLOS ONE on New Year’s resolutions reveals the effectiveness of positive, approach-oriented goals. Involving 1066 participants, the study found a success rate of 59% for approach-oriented resolutions compared to 47% for avoidance-oriented ones.

This data underscores the importance of positively framing fitness resolutions, such as setting goals to “go to the gym 3 times a week” instead of “stop eating junk food”. Such positive framing not only enhances tangibility and achievability but also boosts motivation and engagement, significantly increasing the likelihood of lasting change.

Be Flexible and Adaptable

Here’s where many fall off the wagon – rigidity. Life throws curveballs, and your fitness routine should be ready to catch them. If you miss a workout, don’t sweat it. Adjust and move forward

Flexibility in your approach is vital. Can’t make it to the gym? A quick home workout can save the day. This adaptability not only helps in maintaining consistency but also keeps the journey stress-free and enjoyable.

Planning and Commitment

Assess Personal Willingness and Motivation

Before we lift a single weight, it’s crucial to gauge your true readiness to commit. Ask yourself, “Am I ready to embrace this change wholeheartedly?” Your answer needs to be more than just a passing “yes.” It should be a deep, unwavering commitment, akin to the determination you bring to a challenging Crossfit WOD.

This introspection is the cornerstone of your fitness journey – a journey that demands not just physical exertion but mental and emotional readiness.


Once you’ve affirmed your commitment, it’s time to solidify it. Start by making a written or verbal promise to yourself. Better yet, announce it to your friends or family. This public declaration isn’t just a statement; it’s a powerful motivator.

Then, bring out your planner. Scheduling your workouts just like any other important appointment is a game-changer. Seeing these commitments in writing embeds them into your routine, making them harder to skip.

Navigate the Obstacle Course

The path to fitness is rarely a straight line – it’s more like an obstacle course. Prepare for hurdles, be it time constraints, lack of motivation, or unforeseen life events. The key is not to get derailed by these obstacles but to navigate through them.

Develop a contingency plan – if you can’t make it to the gym, have a home workout ready as a backup. Embrace these challenges as part of the journey and remember, overcoming them only makes your commitment stronger.

The Power of Daily Tracking

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Imagine your fitness journey as a roadmap. Without milestones, how would you know you’re heading in the right direction? This is where daily tracking comes into play. It’s not just about marking off days on a calendar; it’s about recording your workouts, noting improvements, and even jotting down how you feel.

Utilize habit-tracking apps or shared documents – tools that make this process seamless and accessible. Each entry is a step closer to your goal, a tangible record of your dedication and progress.

Building a Support System

Family and Friends: Your Cheer Squad

Your fitness journey isn’t a solo mission. It’s a path best walked (or sprinted) with support from those closest to you. Family and friends can play a pivotal role in keeping you motivated and on track. Share your goals with them, and don’t hesitate to express how important their support is.

Whether it’s a sibling joining you for a morning jog, a partner swapping pizza night for a healthy cook-off, or a friend sending a motivational text before your workout, these gestures provide a powerful boost. They’re not just your support system; they’re part of your fitness journey.

Virtual Communities: The World at Your Fingertips

In today’s connected world, support is just a click away. Online fitness communities offer a wealth of resources, from workout tips to nutritional advice. Platforms like Reddit, fitness forums, or even specific groups on social media sites are treasure troves of information and encouragement.

Share your triumphs and challenges, ask for advice, or just soak in the motivational stories from others on similar journeys. These virtual communities are a goldmine for anyone looking to stick to their fitness resolutions.

Joining Fitness Groups: Strength in Numbers

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Finally, consider joining a specific exercise or fitness group. Whether it’s a local running club, a Crossfit box, or a yoga class at the gym, these groups provide structured activities and a sense of community. Here, you’ll find like-minded individuals with similar goals.

The shared experience of working out together not only makes the process enjoyable but also keeps you accountable. There’s something about sweating it out together that forges strong bonds and keeps you coming back.

Adaptation and Learning

Learn from Past Attempts and Failures

Every fitness journey has its share of missteps and setbacks, but these aren’t just obstacles; they’re invaluable lessons. Reflect on your past attempts at exercise resolutions. What hurdles did you encounter? Maybe you set goals that were too ambitious, or life’s chaos interrupted your gym routine.

Analyzing these experiences is key. It’s like reviewing a workout to see where you struggled and where you excelled. This introspection guides you to smarter, more attainable fitness objectives.

Tailor Goals to Your Evolution

As you progress in your fitness journey, your goals should evolve too. Perhaps you started with a goal to jog a mile without stopping, but now you’re breezing through three. It’s time to level up. Adjusting your goals isn’t a sign of miscalculation; it’s a sign of growth.

As your body gets stronger and your stamina increases, challenge yourself with higher targets. This continuous adjustment keeps your fitness journey aligned with your current abilities and aspirations.

Celebrate Success and Maintain Positivity

Savor Every Victory, Big or Small

In the world of fitness, every step forward deserves its moment in the spotlight. Whether it’s mastering a new workout technique, adding an extra mile to your run, or simply sticking to your weekly routine, each of these accomplishments is a cause for celebration. Embrace these moments. 

Share your achievements with your support network, jot them down in your fitness diary, or even reward yourself with something special, like new workout gear or a healthy treat. Remember, these small victories are the building blocks of your larger goal.

Practice Gratitude

Amid the sweat and hard work, it’s crucial to pause and reflect on the progress you’ve made. Practicing gratitude for your body’s ability to move and improve is a powerful tool. It shifts the focus from what you have yet to achieve to what you’ve already accomplished.

This positive mindset is the fuel that keeps the fire of motivation burning. Each time you exercise, take a moment to be thankful for the opportunity to engage in your health and well-being.

Balance Positivity and Realism

Maintaining a positive outlook doesn’t mean ignoring the challenges or setbacks you may encounter. It’s about acknowledging these hurdles without letting them derail your journey. Stay realistic about your goals and the efforts required to achieve them.

This balance between optimism and realism is the sweet spot where sustainable fitness habits thrive. When faced with obstacles, remind yourself why you started, look back at how far you’ve come, and keep moving forward with a smile.

Refine Your Strategy: Keys to Lasting Fitness Resolutions

Avoid Quick-Fix Solutions

In a world brimming with promises of rapid transformation, it’s easy to get lured by the allure of quick-fix solutions. However, just like mastering a complex Crossfit WOD, real progress in fitness takes time, effort, and dedication. Be wary of any program or product that promises immediate results with minimal effort.

True fitness is a journey, not a sprint. It involves building sustainable habits, not just short-term fixes. Remember, the best results come from consistent effort over time, not overnight miracles.

Integrate Exercise into Daily Life

One of the most effective ways to stick to your fitness resolutions is to make exercise a natural part of your daily routine. Think of it as a regular part of your day, like eating or sleeping. This could mean cycling to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even doing bodyweight exercises during your lunch break.

The goal is to move away from viewing exercise as a chore and more as a regular, enjoyable part of your life. Small, consistent changes add up to significant, long-lasting results.

The Virtues of Consistency and Patience

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of sticking to your exercise resolution is understanding the importance of consistency and patience. Fitness gains don’t happen overnight. They require time, effort, and, most importantly, persistence. There will be days when progress seems slow or nonexistent, but these are the moments when it’s most critical to stay the course.

Be patient with yourself and trust in the process. Like a well-programmed Crossfit cycle, every step you take contributes to your overall fitness goals.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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