Many Americans start off the year with a list of resolutions to reform their bad habits and improve their health. But over time, our collective resolve predictably dissolves. “Just a month or two later, the gym is empty again,” observes Hal Paz, MD, Aetna’s chief medical officer.
In his twenties, Dr. Paz discovered the secret to achieving his own fitness goals. “The trick was to make it part of my daily routine,” he says. “I get out of bed in the morning and work out. It’s like brushing my teeth. I don’t have to think about doing it.”
No matter how long ago you fell off the health wagon ― two months, two years or more ― it’s never too late to turn things around. And if there’s one resolution you should follow through on, mounting research suggests that regular exercise is almost miraculous in its effects.
Scientific evidence points to physical activity being as essential to good health as Vitamin C or a good night’s sleep. One headline-making study published in November 2017 revealed that cardiovascular training alters our gut bacteria independent of diet. This wasn’t the first time researchers found that exercise is good for us over and above the obvious benefits of weight loss, cardiovascular health or muscle strength. Getting physical clearly changes us at a profound level.
Exercise offers whole-body benefits.
Scientists say there’s strong evidence that exercise has a significant positive impact on many different health risks and conditions:
What inspires you to get moving?
But just knowing that exercise does a body good isn’t enough to get us off the couch. We need something more to move us.
Finding the motivation to exercise isn’t so much a decision as a discovery. Most people can’t assign themselves a logical reason to get fit unless it also lights a fire in their heart. What drives you to do hard things? These examples may jog your memory:
A little competition can be a great motivator.
After inspiration, all you need is persistence. Do whatever you have to do to keep your fitness goals on track. Here are some tried and true strategies:
Workout buddies keep us accountable.
The right music can significantly boost performance.
Just keep searching for your personal magic formula. More than 50% of Americans meet the guidelines for aerobic activity of 150 minutes per week. So the odds are good that you will keep your fitness resolution. See you at the gym ― or basketball court, track or pool.
Maureen Shelly is a health and science geek living in New York City.
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