A fitter you in the new year

 As the new year rolls around, many people think about starting afresh and working on their health.

There are many options out there, from joining a gym, taking up classes or getting a personal trainer.

However, any exercise programme will require a long-term commitment if there is to be any hope of proper results.

Speak to your doctor
Before starting any exercise programme, even a light one, it is best to have a discussion with your doctor to see whether there are any underlying medical conditions that might influence how hard you can train or what results you can expect to see.

Small changes
Even small changes can make a big difference at the end of the year. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further from the shop entrance and walking instead of waiting for a spot close by to open up can burn calories and slowly but surely build up your fitness. Of course these changes alone will not be enough to create the body you want, but it will help.

The biggest hurdle most people face when it comes to exercising is not starting a programme, but sticking to it. That is why so many people will start the year right, slip up two weeks in and be back to their old habits by the end of January. However, it is important to keep in mind that one slight slip, or even a major one, should not be allowed to derail your entire effort.

Set a goal
Whether it be participating in a marathon or triathlon at the end of the year or dropping a dress size or two, set a goal to work towards. It will make it much easier to keep pushing through the programme if you have a goal to keep your eye on.

Make it realistic
Setting the bar too high is setting yourself up for failure. You might not be blessed with the genetics to be a champion triathlete or have a model body, so setting yourself such a goal is likely to frustrate you more than help you.

Make any goal realistic as you are less likely to lose your motivation.

Baby steps
It helps to set a range of smaller goals along the way to help you stay on track. If your final goal is losing 40 excess pounds during the course of the year, break it down into how many pounds you want to lose per month, as this will give you an indication whether you are on track or whether you have to work harder.

Start slow
Trying to make a wholesale change to your lifestyle could be a shock to the system. Rather than going out and trying to run six miles on the first morning, rather try and build up slowly. If necessary, start by walking, then add a bit of jogging until you can jog the entire distance.

Tell someone
Telling other people about your goals and how you plan to reach them can be a powerful motivator. It makes it much harder to back out, as you will have to explain yourself to others.

Work together
Finding an exercise partner who shares your goals can help a lot. Whether it is an early morning walk or just sharing a healthy lunch with a co-worker, knowing that you will not only be letting yourself down, but also letting someone else down, will make you less likely to slip up.

Watch what you eat
Many people make the mistake to think that exercising more means they can get away with eating whatever they like. However, to see appreciable weight loss, keeping an eye on your food intake is important. It is not necessary to follow a full-blown restrictive diet. Making healthier food choices and moderating portion sizes can make a big difference.

It’s about your health
Anything you do should always be about becoming a healthier person. Taking shortcuts to lose weight quickly is likely to result in unsustainable weight loss and could even harm your health. Focus on becoming a healthier, fitter person and the rest will follow naturally.