New Year diet and exercise programme

Throughout January, many people are seriously considering changing their lifestyle. It could be that they want to lose weight, so make a New Year’s resolution to change their diet for good or to finally take that plunge and join the gym. This is the time of year when people are most likely to have the motivation to want to change, seeing a new year as a new start and a change of habits. Gymnasiums across the country will offer substantial discounts on gym membership for January in an attempt to entice people who are suddenly more eager to improve their health.

This renewed eagerness to change your lifestyle is certainly going to help you improve your diet, fitness and lose weight, but in reality, many people lose confidence in themselves and their eagerness to change starts to wane and they return to their old habits of previous years. In fact, approximately 50% of people who start an exercise programme drop out within the first six months. Adhering to a new diet can be just as difficult as the changes that people attempt to make are simply overwhelming.

When starting a new diet or exercise programme, it is important not to make too many changes at first. Set yourself only a few goals initially that are realistic and can be achieved by a certain time. For example, if you currently only have one portion of fruit and vegetables each day, it is likely to be unrealistic for you to suddenly eat the recommended five portions a day. A more realistic goal could be to increase your fruit and vegetable intake up to two or three portions a week by next week. Setting yourself difficult targets at first can lead to you becoming discouraged if you do not achieve them and then returning to your old habits. Research shows that people who start an exercise programme are more likely to adhere to it when starting off at a low to moderate intensity in the early stages. As you achieve these goals, you can gradually set yourself more difficult targets that will help keep you motivated. Receiving social support from your friends and family will also help to keep you positive and motivated.

There are so many diets available on the market today, but although some may help you to achieve substantial weight loss, they can be very hard to adhere to, partly because you have to make so many dietary changes that are unrealistic. Low calorie and very low calorie diets may be beneficial if you need to lose a lot of weight, but require medical supervision and should only be undertaken following the advice of a GP. Many diets fail to teach people the long-term dietary changes that need to be made in order to help keep the weight off. Remember only to make a few changes at first. Committing to having a healthy breakfast on most days of the week would be a good start and achieving such a goal is likely to encourage you and you can then set yourself more difficult targets.

In terms of exercise programmes, there are so many reasons why people drop out including a lack of time or money, low self-confidence, low motivation and energy, a lack of support and not achieving set targets. Starting an exercise programme with a friend of similar fitness can help, as you can both encourage each other and enhance motivation. If you do join the gym, fitness instructors will be able to discuss your individual fitness needs and goals and suggest suitable exercises for you. It is recommended to exercise at a moderate intensity such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. It can take a long time before you notice any real benefits from the exercise, which is another reason why people drop out. 

Exercise is hard work if you want to fully benefit from it, but it is important to stay within your fitness capabilities and increase the intensity of your workout as your fitness improves. If you have an underlying medical problem, seek advice from your GP before starting an exercise programme. Performing a variety of exercises will help you find activities that you enjoy and reduce boredom. If you do want to lose weight, then it is well worth increasing your physical activity levels. Research shows that 90% of people who have lost at least 30 Ib (13.6 kg) and kept the weight off for at least one year exercise on average for one hour a day. Brisk walking is a common activity that such people do, but the type of exercises you do initially will depend on your current fitness levels. Brisk walking may be just right for you to start off with, but for other people, it could be too easy or too hard.

One of the most important reasons why people don’t adhere to a new healthy eating regime or an exercise programme is because of a low perception that their health is at risk and a low perception of any potential benefits from healthy eating and exercise. Overcoming such barriers and adhering to a new healthy eating and exercise regime will not only make you feel better about yourself, but will also reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and coronary heart disease. If you have recently started to make positive changes to your diet and begun an exercise programme, keep up the good work and your health will benefit substantially by continuing to make positive dietary changes and adhering to your exercise programme in the long term.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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