Most gym owners can attest to the fact that they see a spike in new memberships as people set their New Year's resolution goals with the best of intentions.

Unfortunately, many of those new members' attendance drops off in a few months as the best laid plans of people desiring to be in shape fall by the wayside. It doesn't have to be that way, and most fitness experts say that being in good physical shape is not only good for your health, but, if done right, does not have to be a failed goal.



“Being physically fit increases self-esteem, but also improves your health in so any ways,” said Matt Szelog, sports program supervisor at the Athletic Performance Center at Exeter Hospital. “It helps relieve depression, increases longevity and makes it less likely that you will get certain diseases."
That being said, Szelog said the only way to get fit is to stick to goals.

“The problem is that most people set those goals way too high at first,” said Szelog. “There should be a short-term and a long-term goal, maybe even a series of short-term goals to arrive at the end result.”
A long-term goal might be running a marathon or a half-marathon. It could be as simple as the desire to have more energy to play with the grandkids.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” said Samantha Merchant, executive director of The Works Health and Fitness Center in Dover. “People lead very sedentary lives, both at work and at home, making the importance of movement vital for good health.”

Merchant said a good fitness program will improve muscle and bone, blood pressure, cholesterol and help with cardiovascular health. Weight loss goals require that physical activity be a regular part of your weight loss plans.

“Even 30 minutes a day will help,” said Merchant. “People do not have to rush into a high-intensity program because the chances are they are not ready for it and they will quit. Starting small will make a difference.”

One key component of a successful exercise program is to have support. Szelog said his center does a lot with small groups.

“People are more accountable if there are others striving for the same results,” said Szelog. “Even if it's one person, a gym buddy, you are more likely to show up for that other person and you can support each other. Almost all of my clients say they would never have stayed with it if they didn't have the support. When they do, they are never sorry.”

Merchant said the buddy system works for her.

“I work at a gym and still can find excuses not to work out,” said Merchant. “I arranged to have a friend I work out with and because I know I am supposed to meet her at the gym I will go and we work out together. I am less likely to make excuses because I know she is expecting me. It really works.”

Szelog said every person needs to find a fitness program that is sustainable for them. They should stick with that program for about three months and then reassess.

“Maybe then you will find you can increase what you are doing,” said Szelog. “Or maybe you can stay where you are a bit longer, but set a goal for improvement. The point is to stay with it. Fitness takes time and hard work.”

Being physically fit is a lifestyle change for many people. Merchant said people fail when they set their goals too high.

“If they miss a day, people get frustrated and they need to understand that instead of giving up, they have to start again,” said Merchant. “If they do that, the chances are better that fitness will become a part of their lifestyle. It's a journey and there will be ups and downs along the way. Keep at it and the results will come, and your health will be improved. More energy and stamina come with time.”

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