Springtime: Renew New Year's Resolutions (cont.)

"New Year's resolutions are a short-term fix, not a lifestyle change," said Vives, a strength and conditioning specialist certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. "They create a false sense of urgency. People tend to be more successful when they make the decision at some other time of the year."

To help her clients remain motivated, Vives tries to break down their long-term goals into weekly goals.

"For example, if the long-term goal is weight loss, I help them create weekly goals regarding their weight and percentage of body fat. Or maybe we'll focus on preparing for a 5K race in the community."

Ultimately, the best advice about getting healthy is, "just do it ... and keep doing it."

"Set well-defined and achievable goals, and then focus on participation rather than performance," said Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise. "People should make exercise like punching a clock -- they should focus on doing things on a regular basis. Don't worry about reaching your target heart rate. Just focus on doing so many minutes of exercise a day for 30 consecutive days. Develop the habit of being physically active, and then readjust your efforts."

And if you need more motivation, Kraus suggests the technique known as the deposit and refund method.

"Give a good friend $500," he says. "That's the deposit. Then have the friend refund the money at the rate of, say, $50 for every pound you lose, or $5 for every visit to the gym. That way you reward your own progress and make instant gratification work for you."

Published April 3, 2006.

SOURCES: Robert Butterworth, PhD, clinical psychologist, International Trauma Associates, Los Angeles. Stephen Kraus, PhD, author, Psychological Foundations of Success: A Harvard-Trained Scientist Separates the Science of Success from Self-Help Snake Oil. Diane Vives, owner of Vives Training Systems, Austin, Texas; strength and conditioning specialist. Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist, American Council on Exercise.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Last Editorial Review: 5/12/2006