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  • Writer's pictureDave Balzer

New goals, new results, or new lifestyles? Which should you aim for in 2024?

It's that time of year again — the onset of New Year's resolutions, the buzz of "New Year, New Me." The world is filled with motivation, and everyone seems to have the perfect plan for establishing a robust exercise routine. Yet, if you've attempted this in the past, you know the story all too well (I've certainly been there). Commitments are made, enthusiasm runs high, but after a few weeks, life happens, and you find yourself slipping back into old routines. It's a frustrating cycle that many experience year after year in January.

The beginning is often the easy part—everyone is motivated. But why the drop-off after a few weeks? What's missing in the typical routine that causes so many to fall short of establishing movement as a daily habit? The answer lies in understanding the WHY behind the importance of consistent exercise.

Cinque Torri - Dolomites, Italy - Fall 2023

The new year also brings out many gimmicky health clinicians pressuring you into making changes using the “New Year, New You” mantra. So, despite the annoyance, here's a brief exploration of why the health and wellness community persistently advocates for more movement, especially for those experiencing pain.

Studies consistently show that exercise is a powerful tool in improving various aspects of health. It not only increases energy and reduces fatigue, but also stimulates muscle, tissue, and bone repair. It improves joint function, reduces the risk of chronic illnesses, enhances sleep quality, and can even alleviate pain. The benefits extend further to improved blood circulation, facilitating healing, and boosting immune functioning. Exercise is a holistic approach that can bolster self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, lift mood, and dial down the perception of pain. Sounds like a magic pill, right!?

Conversely, a lack of movement leads to reduced immune functioning, stiffness, muscle atrophy, poor metabolic function, dysregulated sleep, and tension. It leaves individuals feeling weak, lethargic, and unmotivated, all while increasing prolonged pain. Sedentary behavior is identified as one of the major risk factors for developing chronic pain and illness, making movement an essential component of overall well-being.

But it doesn't end there. Beyond the physical benefits, exercise transforms the brain. Engaging in physical activity rewires the pain system, lowering pain alarms and stimulating the production of crucial brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Additionally, consistent movement regulates stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, promoting relaxation and overall healing.

For those dealing with chronic illness or pain, the notion of exercising might seem counterintuitive. However, during this time it becomes especially important to do so. This doesn't mean immediately resuming the exercise routines from before the onset of pain, injury, or illness. Instead, it involves a gradual and thoughtful approach — graded exposure to movement – allowing both the brain and body to adapt. A constant cycle of overdoing or underdoing exercise just doesn’t work – it only confuses your body. So, cut out the boom or bust thinking; instead, create a plan to resume exercise while identifying ultimate goals. Sure, weight loss is a good start, but make sure to pair it with a meaningful function. Here are a few examples:

  • I want to lose weight by exercising consistently so I can improve my endurance, allowing my body to better tolerate going on a hiking trip later this year.

  • I intend to be consistent with my exercise program so I can have the strength to play my daughter’s favorite game – tossing her up in the air – without having fear I will hurt my shoulders. (I may add that consistent strength training will allow them to play this with his grandkids!)

Or my favorite that I consistently heard from clients this past year:

  • My goal is to be the best mother/father/spouse for my family and I know that requires focus and effort on my health through fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness.

To wrap things up, I know this article comes off as just another health nut preaching about the new year. But, I truly feel understanding the profound impact of consistent exercise on both the body and mind can positively impact adherence to movement practices, especially for those grappling with pain. So, this year, as you embark on your fitness journey, keep your WHY in mind – it might just be the missing piece that transforms a resolution into a lasting lifestyle change.

"New goals don't deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is a process, not an outcome. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better habits, not chasing better results."
– James Clear (Atomic Habits)



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