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Did you resolve to exercise more in 2019? If so, you’re not alone. According to a survey by YouGov, “exercise more” is the #1 New Year’s resolution in the U.S., with 59% of people making that commitment for 2019.

Unfortunately, very few people actually keep their resolutions. According to YouGov, 31% of Americans who made New Year’s resolutions in 2018 didn’t stick to any of those pledges, and 38% only kept some of their resolutions.

For those who want to get in shape, one of the most popular ways to exercise more is to join a gym, and every January, fitness centers offer special deals to lure in new members.

As experts in fitness, here’s our recommendation: if you want to exercise more and get into better shape, resist the temptation to join a gym. Here’s why:

  1. Crowding and long lines. Chances are you’re not the only one who joined your gym in January with high hopes of better fitness. At the beginning of the year, gyms are crowded with couch potatoes determined to whip themselves into shape, and you might find yourself doing more waiting for machines than exercising.
  2. Likelihood of failure. If you don’t already go to a gym regularly, it can be a challenge to make time and establish the habit, and that means many of those new gym memberships are quickly abandoned. According to a study by U.S. News and World Report, 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.
  3. Gym memberships aren’t cheap, and if you pay with a monthly or yearly contract then stop going, you’re paying for nothing. And gyms know this! They usually sell memberships to many more people than would actually fit in the gym because they expect the majority of members to visit the gym infrequently, if at all.

If you really want to get in shape this year, there’s a better way to do it than joining a gym. Here’s how:

Make exercise convenient. Don’t force yourself to drive to a separate location in order to exercise. Instead, walk or run close to home or work.

Integrate exercise into your everyday tasks. Take every opportunity to elevate your heart rate: park in the far corner of parking lots and walk to your destination, run nearby errands by riding a bike or walking rather than driving, take the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.

Set aside 20 minutes every day for fitness. It’s a small time commitment, but it can make a real difference in your level of fitness. Go for a brisk walk, run around your neighborhood, do jumping jacks, create your own obstacle course, work out to an online exercise video—whatever it takes to get moving.

Pair fitness with recreation. Have some spare time? Change the way you think about having fun—rather than a movie, how about going ice skating? Want to check out a new town or neighborhood? Hit a hiking trail in the area before you enjoy the shops. Eager to try that new brunch place? Bike there and make the meal your reward.

Enlist a fitness buddy. Getting fit is easier when you have support. Find a neighbor, coworker, friend or family member who also wants to get in shape and rely on each other for support and motivation.

Mix it up. One of the main reasons people give up on exercising is boredom. Keep things interesting by doing something different every time—take different running routes, alternate morning and evening workouts, take new classes, vary your speeds and levels of exertion, or alternate exercise types. Not only will it keep you motivated and interested, it actually delivers better results and helps you avoid frustrating fitness plateaus.


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