Make it Stick – New Year’s Resolutions

By Dubuque Physical Therapy Team

January 13, 2021


Written by: Brad Kruse, PT, DPT, EDD, SCS, ATC, CSCS

Many things about this past year were far from normal. As we turn the page on 2020, one thing that remains is the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions.

The 3 most common New Year’s resolutions are to: exercise more, eat better and to lose weight.

There is a reason that Planet Fitness is the sponsor of the ABC Times Square New Year’s celebration. As you turn on your television, or log into your favorite digital platform, you will see numerous advertisements related to exercise and health. Although intentions are good, 80% of people will fail to achieve at least some of their New Year’s resolutions.

Be among the 20%



A myriad of obstacles to success in achieving your New Year’s resolution exist. When it comes to exercise and living a healthy lifestyle, most of those obstacles are things largely under our control. Exercise, along with other health related activities or choices, is 20% knowledge and 80% behavior. Accept that behavior change is HARD and takes TIME, but be confident that you can meet your goals.

Ask yourself “Why am I doing this?”

The “why” must be present in your goal(s). To boost success, set goals that are:

       Meaningful: You must have a fairly strong, personal reason to make a change

       Measurable: Be specific. It’s easier to measure success when you “walk 3x/week” compared to “walk more”.

        Achievable: Be lofty, but identify smaller goals along the way that will be indicators of progress.

For example: “I will walk 3 miles, 3 times per week to help control my blood pressure” is a goal that may take time to achieve. Depending upon your current level of activity, it may be necessary to start with walking 3 blocks and advance from there.

A failure to plan is a plan to fail

Once you have established the “why” regarding the change you want to make, the next step is to make a plan. It is far too easy to say “I’ll exercise later today”. Later today easily becomes tomorrow or next week. Planned activities should change over time as you meet the smaller goals you previously have set for yourself. Research shows that you are more likely to adhere to an exercise plan if you specifically plan:

WHAT you are going to do?

What type of exercise might you enjoy?

As the saying goes, you must walk before you run.

Perform body weight exercise before you go to the weight room.

WHERE you are going to do it?

You don’t always have to go to a gym to exercise. Exercise equipment may be nice, but it is often not necessary.

It will not always be nice enough to go outside. Gyms are not always open.

WHEN the activity will be performed?

Consider your schedule and commitments, then find a place in your schedule where you can include exercise.

The best exercise…

When it comes to exercise (or weight loss etc.), there are a lot of opinions out there. From television to social media, there is no shortage of people who say they have the answer and are willing to sell you their product or gimmick.


Truth is, the best exercise is the one you will do and enjoy.

  • Pick a mode of exercise that fits you, your exercise history, and your current state of health.
  • If you hate the idea of running, then the likelihood that you will stick with a plan that includes running is pretty low.
  • If you don’t know where to start, seek advice from someone such as the exercise professionals at Merge Performance Institute or Dubuque Physical Therapy.


Motivation is difficult to sustain over time. Motivation trends up and down in relation to various situations in our lives. Sometimes we fail to see progress, or we have a setback that makes us want to quit. Understand that this is normal. Here are a few things that can help boost motivation and help you sustain activities that can lead to the positive changes you seek.

  • Write it down: Simply write your goal(s) on a piece of paper and sticking it somewhere you will see it daily.
  • Identify a partner or support system: Pursuing a goal with someone else can keep you both accountable. Resist the tendency to compare yourself to others. Just do your best.
  • Anticipate barriers: Things will come up that hinder progress. If you think about what will likely come up, you can plan around them. When you get off track, forgive yourself and start again.
  • Record your activity: Keeping a log of your exercise or food intake etc. helps you see progress, and it will also show you when you are off your chosen path.
  • Reward yourself along the way: When you meet one of your smaller goals, have a reward in mind.
  • There’s an App for that: Many Apps have been developed that can record your activity, and most provide some sort of reminder and motivational feedback.

“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can”. – Arthur Ashe

This quote from the late Arthur Ashe sums up a great strategy for joining the 20% of people who are successful in keeping their New Year’s resolutions. Regardless of the nature of your goals, success starts with believing in yourself. Changing behavior so that you can work toward your goals hinges on choices you make each day.

Regardless of your success or failure in the past, today is a new day, a new opportunity. Make the most of it.