New Year's Resolution Update: Why sticking to those exercise goals is a good idea

Syracuse University students sound off on how they're keeping up with fitness ambitions -- and why it's important to stay active.

The Archbold Gymnasium bustles with students working on the weight machines, lifting free weights, and running on the treadmills. Guys watch themselves lift weights with pain on their faces while girls power through their elliptical and treadmill workouts. The image differs greatly from the way the Archbold Gymnasium looked in December, perhaps because of the new year.

"Unless you really care and are serious about it, I don't think you're gonna completely change your life." - Laura Cohen

For the students who made New Year's resolutions this year, the odds are not in their favor. According to a FranklinCovey study cited on The New York Times blog, four out of five Americans who make New Year's resolutions break them eventually, and a third of them break them before February. A Marist poll called weight loss the most popular resolution of 2013.

Syracuse University graduate student Ricky Ricco adhered to that trend by resolving to exercise more in 2013.  He has his own theory for why so many fail to follow through with their resolutions:

"I blame it on Americans' laziness and lack of dedication," Ricco said.

But despite his lack of confidence in his fellow Americans, Ricco is also having trouble keeping his own resolution to exercise four times a week.

"I was slacking big time and the new year became my motivation to get back to the gym," said Ricco, who has noticed that on-campus gyms are more crowded now than they were last semester.

The Archbold gym logs show that more students are hitting the gym after their December slumps. An average of 1,017 people exercised at the Archbold gym per day during the first four weeks of this semester compared to a daily average of 676 during the last three weeks of the fall semester.

The Ernie Davis gym logs yield similar results: an average of 558 people exercised there daily during the first four weeks of this semester compared to a daily average of 349 during the last three weeks of the Fall semester.

 Syracuse University students clearly follow a national trend. Studies conducted by Gallup in 2011 found that the number of Americans who exercise at least 30 minutes three or more days a week drops to its lowest point each year in December before rising again in January.

The upcoming beach season is one of sophomore Laura Cohen's biggest motivations to keep up with her ambitious New Year's workout regime. She resolved to exercise every day that she has the time.

"I want to have a better beach body," said Cohen, who made the same resolution the last few years but had not yet made it further than January in the past. "I know the importance of being healthy and staying fit. There are so many opportunities for me to work out. I live so close to the gym and there are healthy foods available to me and I should just take advantage of it."

Zach Rubin, a Syracuse University sophomore, also takes advantage of living near the gym. He has been exercising at the Ernie Davis gym since returning to Syracuse this winter, despite abandoning his workouts last semester.

"I wanted to feel in shape and be proud of the way I looked when I looked at myself in the mirror," said Rubin, who guesses he has stuck with his resolution about 70% of the time.

Rubin, Cohen, and Ricco all listed their committment to homework and jobs as the main reasons they have occasionally veered away from their resolutions thus far.

Sandy Bargainnier, coordinator of the I-MOVE program at Syracuse University, sees this issue often and suggests that students consider exercising as important as eating a meal or going to class. For her, the key is making exercise a priority and blocking out time for it.

 Bargainnier does this in her own life by scheduling workouts at the YMCA four mornings a week.

"Sometimes I don't feel like it, but it's scheduled and I know it's gonna happen," she said. 

Students with overwhelming amounts of school work may think that going to the gym is just a waste of time that they could spend studying (or, at least, they use that as an excuse, when really all they do is watch re-runs and stalk friends on Facebook). Those students may not be aware of the mental benefits of exercise.

"It is a great way to deal with your stress, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed and your mind is racing and maybe you can't sleep because you have so much going on," said Bargainnier. "Exercise can really help relieve some of that stress, make you sleep better, and make you feel better overall."

Students can turn Bargainnier's suggestion of treating exercise like a class into a reality by signing up for an I-MOVE course. Enrolling in an I-MOVE class is a surefire way to incorporate a unique and fun exercise into your day at least once a week. The I-MOVE program offers classes in dance, swim, yoga, and even boxing, among other physical activities. In addition to scoring the physical benefit, students who take an I-MOVE class receive credit for doing so.

Students sometimes overestimate their abilities to complete assignments and take on multiple responsibilities. But Cohen, who said she is following through with her resolution better than she has in previous years, remains optimistic.

"Even though this New Year's resolution is the oldest one in the book, I think I can make it happen this year," said Cohen, who's serious about sticking with it. "Unless you really care and are serious about it, I don't think you're gonna completely change your life."


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