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Take Ten: Lame Health-Related New Year's Resolutions That Shouldn't Be Made

Peterson, James A. Ph.D., FACSM

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doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e318201c49a
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1. I resolve not to count calories in the upcoming year. Off-target. In reality, calories do count - all calories. As such, 1,000 calories of a particular foodstuff is 1,000 calories, regardless of whether it's celery or cherry pie. The key to maintaining your weight is to consume a nutritionally balanced diet (i.e., adhere to the guidelines underlying the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid) and to expend at least as many calories as you consume (more if you want to lose unwanted pounds).

2. I resolve to follow my intuitive sense concerning what to do exercise-wise rather than adhere to sound science. Off-target. Although people often have a sixth sense concerning what is best for them, such feelings are typically nothing more than hunches. The underlying basis of science, on the other hand, is a systematic process that is designed to discover and document the truth.

3. I resolve to develop big muscles. Off-target. Unless you're in the relatively small minority of individuals who have the genetic makeup to noticeably increase the size of their muscles, you have very little chance of developing large muscles. In fact, most people cannot achieve a substantial degree of muscular hypertrophy, absent the ill-advised consumption of pills, powders, or potions designed to otherwise circumvent natural physiological capabilities.

4. I resolve to listen to the exercise-related advice of celebrities. Off-target. Truth be known, most celebrities are not particularly knowledgeable about health and fitness. Far too often, their seemingly intemperate efforts to pitch various exercise products and diets on television are grounded in their celebrity-driven ability to influence and exploit a public that is looking for the next "miracle" health-related fad or gimmick.

5. I resolve to accept the fact that i may be too old to start exercising. Off-target. With rare exceptions, no one is ever too old to engage in an exercise regimen. In fact, the bountiful benefits of purposeful physical activity can and should be enjoyed by individuals of all ages.

6. I resolve to find a quick, easy way to get fit. Off-target. As a point of fact, the principles of exercise prescription that underline a sound physical activity program are very straightforward. Relatively speaking, most people will discover that getting in shape is neither quick nor easy. More often than not, it takes both time and a resolute commitment to do whatever it takes to form new healthy habits and reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

7. I resolve not to make strength training an integral part of my exercise regimen. Off-target. It is human nature for individuals to focus on those aspects of physical fitness in which they do well. This tendency often encourages individuals to avoid engaging in strength training, given that this particular mode of exercise is often somewhat intimidating to many people. In reality, your muscles are critical to optimal physical function and should be addressed by your exercise efforts.

8. I resolve to adopt a competitive attitude when comparing my exercise efforts with those of other people. Off-target. Exercise is not a contest. No demonstrable benefit is achieved when you compare your workout efforts with those of other individuals. Because the primary focus of your exercise endeavors should be to "make you a better you," your underlying objective in this regard should be to see how your current efforts measure up to your ongoing level of performance and your ultimate exercise goals.

9. I resolve to put off starting an exercise program until the time is more convenient - perhaps, the day after who knows when. Off-target. When it comes to initiating an exercise regimen, the most important time-related consideration is how soon you can translate your plans into concrete action. With regard to your health, now is the most important time in your life. Unfortunately, it is far too easy for individuals to rationalize putting off starting to exercise until later. Their health, however, deserves better.

10. I resolve to ignore the counsel of those individuals who proclaim that "exercise is medicine." Off-target. Considerable evidence indicates that exercising on a regular basis not only improves the function of virtually every physiological system in the human body, it also lowers the risk of contracting many diseases. Given this situation, exercise enables individuals to place their focus on health and wellness, rather than on sickness. As such, your mantra in the New Year should be "more exercise, less meds."

© 2011 American College of Sports Medicine.