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Achieve Your Goals: How to Stick to Your Resolutions

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Resolution 2: "I Will Get in Better Shape"

You're most likely to relapse... a week to 3 months. Lack of time and taking on too much too soon are the most commonly cited reasons for throwing in the exercise towel, says Rod Dishman, PhD, exercise psychologist and professor at the University of Georgia. Most of us think we have to bust a gut to reap any benefit, which sets us up for failure.

Relapse-Buster 1

Schedule your workouts. "Studies show that exercisers are more likely to stick to their goals if they write them down," says sports psychologist Charlie Brown, PhD, who is affiliated with the American College of Sports Medicine. Think of them as nonnegotiable appointments, says organizing and time-management consultant Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out. And be realistic: If you know you have an insane week coming up, don't plan 60-minute workouts after office hours when you can more easily fit in a 30-minute exercise DVD in the morning.

Relapse-Buster 2

Try the 20-minute rule. Forget the old "I don't have time" excuse. You can still achieve fitness results by doing short bursts of intense exercise. If you can't make it to the gym, try to engineer more activity into your day. Whenever possible, walk rather than drive, take the stairs -- if they're an option -- rather than the elevator, or even do just a few push-ups. Studies show that significant health benefits occur when exercise is performed in small, repeated bouts rather than in one long sweat session.

Relapse-Buster 3

Don't go for the burn. A good guideline: Pick a somewhat difficult intensity, meaning you're breathing hard but can still carry on a conversation, recommends Dishman. A study at Maastricht University in the Netherlands showed that those who engage in moderate physical activity, such as walking and biking, burned more calories over the course of the day than those who went for vigorous workouts. It turns out that high-impact exercisers spend a greater part of their day in a sedentary state (perhaps as a result of being exhausted). The group of moderate exercisers was more active overall, which just goes to show that slow and steady wins the race and doesn't burn you out.

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