It’s January, and to many people that means a fresh start, turning over a new leaf, breaking bad habits and making the positive changes we’ve been saying we’re going to make for ages but never quite get around to making.

Increasing the amount of exercise we do is something many people choose to change and for good reason. Exercise is extremely beneficial to our health, both physically and emotionally.

Whether you’re looking to increase your fitness, lose some weight, reduce your stress levels or complete a challenge or event, here are some tips to help you stay on track!

1. Find something you love

Don’t like the gym? Don’t join one! There are so many other ways of keeping fit and exercising.

Try a class; a bootcamp; find a dance group; try your hand at martial arts; go walking or swimming; start up (or return to) a sport.

There’s a form of exercise for everyone. So, if you’ve not found something you enjoy yet, just keep trying new things.

It’s hard enough to get out of the house on a dark cold morning or evening to do something you enjoy, so it’s nearly impossible to do so for something you don’t really like! If you’ve tried the gym or running, for example, before and didn’t last the distance, try something new this time!

2. Do it together

It’s much easier to stick to something if you have a friend or loved one who’s also taking part. You spur each other on, drag each other out of the house when one of you doesn’t want to go and encourage each other to work that little harder. There might even be a healthy dose of friendly rivalry!

Some people love exercising on their own and see it as time to think and de-stress. Others prefer company to make the time pass quicker and make sure they don’t quit!

3. Avoid injury

You can’t keep exercising if you’re injured! As a sports injury therapist I see a lot of people who start a new regime only to become injured within a few weeks.

The main reason for this is doing “too much too soon.” It’s a bit of a cliché but it is very true. When starting a new sport or form of exercise you need to start slowly and have adequate rest.

This is something completely new to your body and it will take time to adapt and develop the strength, endurance and movement patterns required.

Even if you are returning to something you have previously done before, you still need to start slow and at a lower level than where you left off. It is also important to receive some form of instruction from a professional (coach, instructor, etc.) to ensure your technique and equipment are all OK.

4. Support from family/friends

Even if you can’t convince them to join you in your new pastime, family and friends can still help by offering you support and encouragement. Make sure they know how serious you are about it and ask them to help in any small way they can.

For example, just asking how it’s going and being interested (even if it’s faked!) in what you’re doing can really help. Getting them to encourage you to go to your gym/club/group or to go out for a walk/ride/run/swim can be the little push you need.

Working out a schedule with a partner regarding when you’re going to make time for your new pursuit is important. You need to find time around your other commitments and also ensure that they don’t feel put out by you disappearing off in the evenings or shirking your share of the chores. This could lead to a less supportive spouse!

It’s also really helpful if they can tell you any differences they notice in you, be it a little weight loss or that you can walk more without getting out of breath. The fact that someone else has noticed is a great encouragement.

5. Set a goal

Whatever form of exercise you choose to undertake, there are always goals that you can set yourself to keep you going. Having a target helps you to keep interested and working towards something, rather than just going through the motions.

Obviously, there are many events for those into running, cycling, triathlons, etc. But even if your chosen exercise doesn’t have such events, there is always a goal you can set yourself.

For example, to complete an increasing number of lengths in the pool every week; to walk a well-known local route or something further afield; achieve a certain time on your indoor rower for 2,000 or 5,000 meters; or to make the team in your new sport.

If your end goal is a big one and some ways off, then make sure you set smaller goals to meet along the way. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon and you’re currently a 5-10 km runner, add in a couple of events before your marathon attempt, such as a 10-mile race, half-marathon and/or 15- to 20-mile races.

6. Be kind to yourself

So you have a week where you don’t do any exercise. Work’s busy; you’re not feeling great; the kids are playing up… whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. Life has its ways of disrupting our plans and even the most well-intentioned and ardent exerciser has days, sometimes longer where they just don’t feel up to it.

Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just start again when you are ready. Don’t push yourself to exercise if you don’t feel up to it.

Sometimes our bodies just need to slow down for a few days and recover. If you keep pushing when your body is telling you to rest, you run the risk of burnout and needing longer off your plan.

I hope these tips help you to stick to your New Year’s resolution to exercise more. Whatever your exercise of choice is, I hope 2019 sees you continue with it and reap its benefits!