How to Make Fitness New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

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Fitness New Year Resolutions

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Fitness New Year’s Resolutions – The Complete Guide

Study after study shows that for most people, New Year’s resolutions simply don’t last.

Each year, millions of people resolve to lead fitter and healthier lives (among many other things). By the half-way point only 20% of us are still going…

The reason is not simply lack of resolve. If you plan and structure your resolutions the right way, the chances of success shoot up. My infographic above covers the basics of how to get fit and stay fit this coming year. Below you will find a detailed explanation of how to tip the odds firmly into your favour.

There are 5 separate sections below.

  • Numbers behind the annual ritual of New Year resolutions are examined in depth.
  • Types of health and fitness resolutions people make are covered
  • Common reasons why those goals are not met and lifestyle changes sustained are then explained
  • How to succeed this year – the 5 pillars of fitness resolutions that last
  • Examples: Typical fitness goals and how to structure them

Fitness New Year

Fitness Resolutions – The Numbers

Overall, 64% of us will make New Year Resolutions. This includes 47% who take this seriously, making resolutions every year and making a genuine effort to stick to them. The remaining 17% are in the ‘sometimes’ camp.

That leaves 36% of people that never make New Year resolutions at all. That is not to say this group are not willing to improve their fitness and health – there are plenty of ways besides resolutions to get motivated.

Here I am focused on health. Many resolutions are focused on social, financial or career-related topics. Many people (I’ll admit to being one of them!), make several promises to themselves as the new year begins, covering several different topics.

At the 6-month mark, 80% of the resolutions made have failed.

When I first read that statistic, it felt way too high. You’ll find that many studies have put this number even higher. One suggesting that only 8% of people fully succeed in meeting their goals by the time the next calendar year rolls around. See the citations section at the end of this page for links to the studies that these numbers are drawn from.

Fail to Success

There are two take-aways from this:

  • That is a shockingly high failure rate, and if people genuinely want to improve themselves then there must be something amiss with the whole process. In other words, people are not that bad!
  • We come back year-after-year making health and fitness resolutions that fail. This tells me that the drive to better health is strong.

New Year Health and Fitness – Specific Goals

If you look at the pie chart above, you will find that generalised weight loss and improved fitness are the two biggest goals. For many years, giving up smoking was a top choice. Smoking is no longer endemic, explaining the reduction as an overall percentage.

There is a paradox here.

The most common health and fitness NY resolutions are by definition the ones least likely to succeed. The second part of this page covers that topic in a lot of detail. First, here are some more details on those popular changes involving healthy lifestyle and fitness.

Drawbacks of the 5:2 Diet

#1 – Lose Weight 30%

This is a general goal, which can be a number of pounds to shed, can be something like ‘get rid of the beer belly’ or can be to fit into one size smaller clothing. 30% of people making health-related resolutions will pick this one. It will often be in combination with the others in this list.

Typical Resolutions:

  • Lose 2 Stone
  • Lose the spare tyre
  • Fit into my size 12 jeans
  • Keep below X stone

#2 – Get Fit 28%

Another generic target, and one which sees the commercial gyms fill their coffers with year-long subscriptions which will go to waste in a month or two… Sports and home fitness routines fit in here. Many people making this resolution are already active, and want to take things to a new level of commitment.

Typical Resolutions:

  • Go to the gym 3 times a week
  • Run a marathon (or half, or just regularly)
  • Work out at home until I lose weight
  • Get ripped

Resolve to eat better#3 – Eat Healthy Food

What I like about this one is that it works for both 1 and 2 above. I’m sure that this one gets a boost from the indulgences of the festive period. There are many variations here – everything from going fully Vegan to cutting out that 3rd afternoon Latte!

Typical Resolutions:

  • Cut out sugary foods
  • Eat fruit and vegetables
  • Count calories
  • Take a healthy packed lunch to work (no take-aways)

#4 – Drink Less Alcohol

Another entry that might well benefit from the extra indulgences over the holidays. A significant 11% of resolutions involve this. Some people have a dry month, others cut down as part of weight loss programs or more general fitness plans.

Typical Resolutions:

  • Dry January
  • No ‘cheeky’ glass of wine each evening

#5 – Stop Smoking

This is a fitness-focused site and I’m assuming readers here are not crazy enough to participate in a habit that is not just ‘bad for you’, but catastrophic for your long term health…


why people fail at new year resolutions80% of Resolutions Fail – Why?

This is a big number.

Not only is it big, some studies put the failure rate even higher (at 92% in one notable case). I have taken the average, which includes people who ‘mostly’ succeed… they may not hit the target, though still see benefits or changes in behavior.

All those gym memberships, that treadmill or elliptical trainer you bought, the weeks of determinedly declining that carrot cake – all gone to waste.

It would be easy to assume that this was simple lack of will-power or motivation.

Like many aspects of human psychology, that would be an oversimplification. What you will find is that the way people approach their fitness goals are the main reason things do not work out.

There are 3 key areas where things start to go south:

#1 – Trying for Too Much Too Soon

When your goal is simply too big, too far away and progress is painfully slow – the seeds of disillusionment can quickly grow. Big weight loss goals, complete lifestyle changes (no drinking, 4 times a week lifting, no more cakes all at once!) and goals like targeting marathons are all dangerous.

#2 – Lack of Self Belief

Many of us make those resolutions with belief, though when doubts start to creep in they can quickly balloon. Keep in mind that many people will have made those same resolutions year after year. If you believe you will fail, then you are generally speaking setting yourself up to do exactly that.

#3 – Going it Alone

Support from friends, family and loved ones is often superficial only. They want you to succeed, though only in a distant and often cursory way. Many people feel that they are alone with their goals. This is not something that leads to a big ‘I quit’ moment. More often it is just another factor supporting that inner voice which slowly persuades you to quit.

You’ll quickly see that these factors are not independent. All 3 can work together against you. For example if you set a goal to lose 3 stone, have failed multiple times before, see very slow progress and do not have active support from your friends and family – well, what outcome do you expect?

successHow to Succeed with Fitness Resolutions This Year

Time to turn things around to a positive perspective. Studies have identified 5 key factors which significantly increase the chances you will succeed. Note that these work all year around, as well as with New Year Resolutions.

First, an overview of the 5 key factors which can help you succeed

#1 – Realistic, Incremental Goals

Goals which are either too big or too vague very rarely succeed. The most common example is weight loss. Setting a resolution to lose a large amount of weight is precarious at best. When you hit a rough patch, that additional 2 stone can seem like it will never arrive. Instead a goal of 2 pounds a month works much better. This same logic can be applied to healthy eating, general fitness and many other areas. I have created some examples at the bottom of this page for different goals.

#2 – Get Accountable

When you are alone with your resolution, giving up can be easy. If there is some pain (or ‘shame’), you create a barrier which might just keep you going through any dips. Spread the word on Facebook and Instagram, and around your friends and family. Even that small amount of pain with having to explain to many people why your resolution failed will have an outsized effect on whether you continue.

#3 – Focus on the ‘Why?’

Instead of keeping your focus on the goal, actively pay attention to the benefit that achieving that goal will bring you. More energy, focus and a body that feels great are all benefits of improving your fitness. That better health means your chances of being around for your family for many years to come are drastically improved.

#4 – Celebrate Milestones

This factor is an extension of the first one above. If you manage to work out 3 times a week for the month of January, celebrate! Make this loud and give yourself the respect that you earned. Your show will encourage you to go for another month, and you’ll have something to look forward to in the near term too. Set a schedule now, when will you next celebrate?

#5 – Buddy Up

Finding a friend with the same goals and buddying up with them is a huge factor. Setting goals together, having regular checkpoints and ensuring you keep each other accountable works really well. This could even work remotely, using phone or chat check-points.

Putting It All Together – Examples of the Common Fitness Resolutions

You will now have the tools to put together some fitness new year resolutions for 2017 that have a much better chance of succeeding. This final section includes some examples, created from the most common resolutions. I have created an old and new version of each one – and listed some extra ‘pillars’ for each.

#1 – Lose Weight

Old Resolutions: Lose 20lbs, get rid of the ‘spare tyre’.

New Version: Lose 4lbs in January by eating healthy food and exercising at least 4 times a week. Follow this up by losing 2lbs per month until I reach my goal.

Pillars of Success: Remember to celebrate every month you hit your goal. Tell your close friends and family about your goals, and update them every month. Keep focus on the health benefits of getting to your ideal weight.


Balance with Carbs#2 – Eat Healthy Food

Old Resolutions: Cut out bad food, eat more fruit and vegetables.

New Version: Make it specific: I will eat no more than 1 take-out per month, switch my work lunch to a salad (or alternative healthy lunch) 3 times per week. I will not drink added sugar drinks (sodas, processed fruit juices and so on). 3 months later I will replace another unhealthy part of my diet.

Pillars of Success: Make it measurable, and remember to celebrate milestones when you hit them (1 month without added sugar products, 10 healthy lunches in a row for example). If you can get your partner / family involved, this can remove temptations from your fridge. Post your new goals on social media – maybe along with an article explaining why sugar / processed food (or whatever you switch) is not good for you.


#3 – Get Fit

Old Resolutions: Go from being a TV watching, overweight slob to having a ripped body / 6-pack!

New Version: Most people do not believe that they will make this complete transformation, and they are right – the goal is too big, and almost everyone fails. Instead you need a resolution that makes getting fit into a habit. Start small, for example ‘I will do exercise 3 times a week’ for the first month – and build from there. Setting a realistic target such as a half-marathon in the summer and then breaking down the steps needed to get there works too.

Pillars of Success: Focus on the ‘why’. With a permanent lifestyle change that includes fitness you’ll feel more energetic, healthier and more positive – these can lead to even better healthy lifestyle changes. Buddying up with someone with similar goals works wonders here. There are times when all of us don’t feel like starting training… when backing out would be letting a friend down, you have some extra motivation to go.

Wrapping Up: Resources

There are a lot of pages here at to keep you moving towards your goals. These include guides to different types of sport and fitness activity, breakdowns of how to choose the right fitness equipment for your own goals – right through to home fitness equipment reviews and reviews of individual items. In other words, far too many pages to list them all here!

Instead, you will find some category pages here as starting points. You will find more choices via each one:

Inspiration for the Infographic

The numbers and information was collected from a lot of studies covering many 10000’s of people. Here are the main sites for anyone that would like to delve deeper into how those numbers were generated. You’ll see that each study has slightly different percentages, I rounded them out for the graphic above.

Guardian – How Long Do People Keep Their New Year’s Resolutions

Statistics Brain – New Year’s Resolutions Statistics

Wikipedia – NY Resolutions Page (I used several of the studies which this page links to)

Psychology Today – Why People Can’t Keep New Year’s Resolutions

… and several more!