A pledge to get more active is a popular New Year's resolution, but research shows that most people give up on their efforts around exercise and losing weight by February.
Researchers say there can be several factors as to why people don't stick with it. Often, it's because the goal may have been too ambitious.
"A key part is really starting small. We need to set realistic, routine goals," said Mary Jung, an associate professor in the University of British Columbia's (UBC) health and exercise sciences department, in an interview with Dr. Brian Goldman, host of CBC's The Dose.
Sticking to a new exercise routine can be challenging, as it involves a series of behaviours like getting dressed, checking the weather, and then doing the activity, says Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor in UBC's medicine department and director of the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management.
"That's what makes it exceptionally difficult to start and maintain. It's not like putting on a seat belt or brushing your teeth or taking a vitamin," she said.
Recognizing what is stopping us from doing a workout and addressing it can help us incorporate exercise into our weekly routine.
So if you've ever struggled to stick with a resolution or want to become more active, here's what those who study physical activity and human behaviour suggest for the best chance of developing a routine.
Before you lace up the runners, experts agree you should start by reflecting on why physical activity or losing weight is important to you.
"We know from lots of research studies that … people who are most likely to stick to an exercise program are the people who find deeper meaning to exercise than just losing weight or looking good," said Martin Ginis.
"The typical New Year's resolution of 'I need to lose 10 pounds fast' may get you into the gym or outside for the first few days, but it's not going to keep you going for the long term."
In fact, Swedish researchers found that people who made resolutions around approaching a goal with a positive outcome rather than avoiding something — like aiming to get fit enough to run the bases at a slow pitch tournament versus swearing off sweets — were more likely to keep their resolutions.
To help outline your priorities and set up a plan, Lynne Honey, a psychology professor at Edmonton's MacEwan University, recommends the SMART goals approach, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
"You're working towards potentially something you haven't been working at for quite a while so it's really important to create goals that are actually attainable so that you're not just setting yourself up for disappointment," she said.
She suggests being as specific as possible. If you want to run 5K by the summer, that's a more concrete goal than just "getting fit," and it can be broken down into sub-goals through weekly training, Honey says.