Building habits: Eight tips to make your 2024 fitness resolutions a reality


A couple doing standing side bend stretch exercise together in a living room at home. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

It’s again that time of the year when gyms are full, and roads and exercising tracks are full of people running, walking, or doing some strength exercises.

Every January, many people resolve to pursue health and fitness goals, but most fizzle out by February. Often, fitness goals are the first to get dropped once people get busy with other commitments during the year.

So, how do you make your fitness resolutions a reality this year? Here are eight tips I have applied for over two decades.

1. Set realistic fitness goals

Resolving to pursue fitness in the new year is already a great step. The next step is to set realistic goals to achieve this resolution. Define your goals into short- and long-term goals. Make them very specific, measurable, achievable, and time-bound.

Be very realistic. For example, if you have never exercised, don’t start with a goal of exercising 5-6 times a week or doing several intense exercises.

You will burn out very quickly and abandon your fitness routine. Instead, start with very small and easy exercises that you can stick to and will motivate you to keep going. You can start with something as simple as walking for 30 minutes three days a week. Once this becomes a habit, you can add day, time, and workouts and make them harder to challenge yourself.

Having goals and making them as realistic and achievable as possible gives you direction and motivation to pursue your resolutions.

2. Schedule exercise time

Allocate specific time in your day for your exercises, and stick to it. Scheduling will help you prioritise exercising in your daily routine.

For example, I have allocated and stuck to 5am to 6:30am as my exercise time for almost two decades, enabling me to prioritise exercising and make it a habit. Once you allocate time for your exercise, stick to it as much as possible, and you will be amazed how soon it becomes a habit.

3. Focus on building habits

Practice the art of just showing up no matter how you feel. Repeating the behaviour of exercising, even on the days when you don’t feel like it, until it becomes a habit, will enable you to stick to your fitness resolution.

For example, if you have scheduled to work out for 30 minutes three days a week, and on day 2, you feel unmotivated to exercise, show up and do the bare minimum, say 10 minutes of very slow walking.

4. Establish an exercise frequency

You can decide that you will be exercising for 3-4 days a week. Establish a frequency that works for you. For instance, I exercise 5-6 days a week. You can also determine the specific days of the week when you exercise— say, Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.

Establishing an exercise frequency helps with building a habit, as you know that every week, you will exercise for five days and try as much as possible to stick to it.

5. Practice accountability

Accountability will help to keep you on track. Share your fitness goal with your partner, friend, colleague, or family member and request them to be your accountability partner.

You can also have an exercise buddy to keep you motivated or join a fitness community or group to keep the “pressure on”.

Having someone to hold you accountable pushes you to accomplish your goals.

6. Track your progress

Tracking is essential in determining your progress toward achieving your goal. It helps you decide whether or not you are on track, the setbacks, areas that require improvement, and the adjustments you need to make to stay on track to realise your goal.

Progress could be as simple as consistently exercising three days a week for 30 minutes or losing 4 kilogrammes of the year’s target of 12 kilogrammes. Celebrate any progress made and milestones achieved to reinforce positive behaviour and stay motivated to achieving more.

7. Exercise everywhere you go

Frequently traveling for work shouldn’t be the reason you drop your resolution to get fit! Make every space an exercise space and every destination an exercise destination. Stick to your exercise routine and frequency no matter where you are.

Carry your workout shoes and comfortable clothing wherever you go, and use whatever space to exercise.

8. Incorporate strength training into your fitness routine

Building muscle mass is essential for overall fitness as it improves your metabolism, helps you lose weight, enhances your bone strength and density—preventing degenerative bone conditions like osteoporosis, improves brain health—protecting against age-related cognitive decline, and boosts your overall stamina.

Beyond being a New Year’s resolution, staying fit is a commitment to improved quality of life. A regular exercise routine combining cardio and strength training will significantly improve your quality of life, including helping to manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, improve your mental health, improve the ease of doing daily tasks, and enhance longevity.

So, get fit and improve your overall quality of life!

But be sure to consult your physician before you get started—especially if you’ve not been exercising regularly—to determine if you are well enough to exercise and the safe way to get started.

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