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From side, three black women are jogging on paved trail in Railroad Park, 2019
Often New Year’s health resolutions are lofty and fall short after people lose momentum. Setting achievable and realistic health and fitness goals enables people to create long-term habits, says one UAB School of Education professor. Photography: Andrea Mabry

At the end of each holiday season, people set out to create new goals for the coming year as a new year presents a fresh start. Many health and exercise goals are created with the best of intentions but fall short in execution as people often overcommit those goals from the start, making them inevitably unattainable, unrealistic and easy to stop working toward.

“Most of the time, when people set health goals for the new year, they bite off more than they can chew,” said Eric Plaisance, Ph.D., chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Human Studies. “My first recommendation to people who are setting exercise-related resolutions is to understand up-front the ‘why’ behind the goal: Why do you want to do this, what’s the purpose, what’s really driving you?”

Plaisance explains that, by understanding the reason behind a goal, a person can then figure out exactly what realistic measures look like and identify activities they could really enjoy doing — an aspect that is key for long-term success.

“Regardless of why a person approaches exercise, we want to make sure it’s something they enjoy and is something they can see themselves doing for a long time,” Plaisance explained. “Exercise is a lifelong process, and while setting resolutions gets people started, looking forward at what you want to accomplish will keep you engaged for the long haul.”

Plaisance shares his tried-and-true recommendations for setting and keeping resolutions intact.

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