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How to get fit this year

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Two of the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2014 are to lose weight and to get fit according to a study published this month by the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Historically the same study notes, among those who annually resolve to get fitter and healthier at the start of a new year, "75-percent last a week, 71-percent make it past the first two weeks, 64-percent last a month and 46-percent keep their resolution for more than six months."

When deciding to start doing something to lose weight and get in better physical shape everyone always has the best of intentions but most don't stay with it for more than a short time. A common reason for failure is that many become discouraged when they don’t see the weight falling off or see noticeable fitness improvements as quickly as expected and they give up.

We live in a culture of instant gratification. That may work when it comes to fast food and microwave ovens but it doesn't work when it comes to losing weight or getting fit. Unrealistic expectations driven by the desire for instant gratification is illustrated by the droves of people who still fall for the latest pill, fad diet or those late-night infomercials touting that miracle piece of exercise equipment that will produce buns of steel or washboard abs with only a daily 10-minute workout.

The hard truth is, fitness and weight loss requires time and hard work and staying with an exercise program requires good, old self-discipline and determination. A fitter body doesn't come in a box, a bottle or by following the latest trendy diet. The longer it has been since a person paid attention to diet or has exercised on a regular and consistent basis, the longer it takes to achieve fitness and a healthy body weight. While it may be a cliché, getting fit is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint. It can't be achieved overnight.

"Your weight is a balancing act, and calories are part of that equation. Fad diets may promise you that counting carbs or eating a mountain of grapefruit will make the pounds drop off. But when it comes to weight loss, it's calories that count. Weight loss comes down to burning more calories than you take in." say the medical experts at Mayo Clinic.

You burn more calories than you take in by reducing the amount of high-calorie foods and beverages you consume and by increasing the number of calories burned with regular physical activity.

How long it takes to get fit and to achieve a healthier body weight is relative. It depends on an individual's personal and specific goals. Do you want to lose a specific number of pounds? Do you want to drop a few clothing sizes? Do you want to get fit enough to run a 5K or a marathon? You have to get specific when it comes to goals instead of embarking on a non-specific attempt to just lose weight or get fitter.

[More from Aerobic Examiner: Choosing a cardio program to start the new year]

When it comes to making specific goals, those goals have to be realistic. For example, when it comes to weight loss Weight Watchers says that a person should aim to lose "one to two pounds a week." While it is possible to lose weight faster by following an extreme diet, the organization says that "shedding weight too quickly isn’t good for your health, and it can make it harder for you to maintain a weight loss in the long run."

Realistically no one should expect to lose more than 4-8 pounds per month. That is actually a lot of pounds over a year's time for those who commit to eating a healthier diet and exercising over the long-term.

A good strategy is to find and join one of the free online weight and fitness sites like FITDAY or Weight Loss Buddy. Those are just examples as there are many others. Sites like those have diet and weight loss tools like journals and calorie counters that will help you succeed and realize your goals. Through forums on such sites you can meet others with similar goals and can benefit from peer support to help you stay motivated.

Choose an exercise activity that you feel confident that you will stick with. Going to the gym is great but sometimes it is hard to fit it into your schedule on a regular basis. Instead you might just choose something simple that only requires you to get out the front door of your home.

Activities like walking and running are simple and don't require much beyond a good pair of trainers. Both are easy to fit into your daily schedule. In addition those are two of the most effective aerobic activities there are for weight loss and overall fitness. If you are just starting out consider one of the popular run/walk programs that are available.

Whatever exercise activity you choose, follow the guidelines developed by The American College of Sports Medicine for aerobic exercise which is "30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

In summary, how to get fit this year involves making some realistic goals, deciding on a strategy, finding the right tools to help you succeed and staying committed. If you do that you will succeed in keeping your resolution to become fitter and healthier this year.

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