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Q
New Year's Fitness Resolution?

My New Year's resolution is to get on an exercise program and get into shape. But I've made similar promises to myself in the past and haven't been successful. Do you have any suggestions that might help me follow through?

A
Answer (Published 12/31/2004)

New Year's resolutions are easy to make but can be hard to keep, especially when the goal is to substitute new habits for old. To help with follow-through on exercise routines, I suggest starting with a personal trainer for guidance. In fact, a study at McMaster University in Canada found that people who are new to exercise do better when they have some professional help.

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In the study, all the participants were asked to perform a grip-strength task. Then, half the participants set their own goals for the second exercise, while the other half was assigned to squeeze three more pounds than they had in the first round. As the study progressed, the researchers concluded that the expertise of a fitness professional increased the confidence of the beginning exercisers and also helped motivate them.

If you're new to exercise, it is a good idea to hire a trainer to you get started on the right track and set realistic goals. A few sessions can get you going on the right track and the trainer can help you set realistic goals. If you're planning to include strength training in your exercise program (and you should), you need a trainer to teach you the correct form so that you get the most out of the exercises and don't injure yourself. If you can afford it, weekly (or even twice weekly) sessions with a personal trainer will go a long way to keeping you motivated while ensuring that your workouts are appropriate to your age and fitness level. If you're going to be exercising at a gym, be sure to ask trainers there to show you how to use the weights and machines. If you can't afford to hire a trainer for regular sessions, it is still a good idea to pay for a session or two when you begin an exercise routine. The trainer can give you goals for aerobic and strength-training exercises. When you meet those goals, you can schedule another session so that new goals can be set.

Best of luck, and Happy New Year.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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