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Why can we never stick to our New Years Resolutions?

Hey all!

I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and New Year and are feeling refreshed and ready to hit the ground running as we get back into the swing of things for 2022.

Obviously it has been a different start to the year with COVID and everything else that is going on. But January is my favourite time of year, as I get back into my regular routine of gym I find it motivating to see so many new faces at the gym. At the physio clinic plenty of new people come in with amazing goals for the year and it is a fun time to be alive. Yet within a month or so, most people's attendance at the gym has dropped off or their progress towards their goals has been sidetracked.

So why do we find it so hard to stick to our New Years Resolutions?

What does the evidence say?

A study published in 2019 by Oscarsson et al. examined New Years Resolutions in the Swedish population. It specifically looked at the success of goal setting and the different types of goals. The study found that most people set goals that revolved around their physical health, weight-loss or eating habits. 1,066 people were recruited for this study and were then separated into 3 groups.

Group 1 set their New Years Resolution and then received no support throughout the year and had 3 follow ups at the end of January, July and December.

Group 2 set their News Years Resolution and named a person responsible to support them during the year. This group was then given 12 follow ups at the end of each month for the year and then sent one email that provided them with information and exercises on how to cope with stress and possible barriers to achieving their goals.

Group 3 was given the same information as Group 2 except some more information about setting goals that were specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and time-framed (SMART). They were also instructed to set goals around approaching their goal instead of avoiding it. Interim goals were also set to be achieved throughout the year, this was done to help avoid procrastination towards a person's New Year Resolution. People in this group were also sent 3 emails with other strategies surrounding motivation and avoiding negative thoughts when experiencing barriers towards their New Years Resolutions.

The results of this study found that Group 2 achieved the most success at 62.3% feeling that they were successful, Group 3 52.5% and Group 1 55.9%. Many people in group 3 felt that by having so much support they weren't able to actively achieve their goals themselves which potentially corresponded to a lower satisfaction rating.

So what does this all mean?

Well, firstly, having some form of support or someone to hold you responsible to your goals is important. This person can help you to stay on track and even offer advice if you get stuck on what to do. Secondly, setting up a long-term goal as your resolution with interim goals that work towards the long-term goal. Generally, the biggest downfall for most people is they lose motivation over the year, interim or short-term goals can help keep that motivation high and work as a check-list. These 2 factors seem to be the most important in regards to achieving your goals and New Years Resolutions.

So what should you do to maximise achieving your New Years Resolution?

Set a long-term goal that is specific, this could be a goal weight or an activity such as running 10km. Then set short-term goals that will complement the long-term goal. The important thing to remember is that New Years Resolutions are marathons and not sprints. Start out slow, if making changes to your routine such as going to the gym more, 1 - 2 sessions a week for the first month is ok. As you find this easy to manage you can steadily increase to avoid burnout.

It takes time to achieve goals, particularly fitness related goals. Be mindful of this and enjoy the process, the journey is part of the process.

Best of luck to you all achieving your goals for 2022.


Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, Rozental A. A large-scale experiment on New Year's resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PLoS One. 2020 Dec 9;15(12):e0234097. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0234097. PMID: 33296385; PMCID: PMC7725288.

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