A matter of resolve: What floats your boat?

When it comes to resolve, I’ve received some interesting advice from Indiana University professors over the years. Bernardo J. Carducci, at IU Southeast, recommends making New Year resolutions in February, or September – but never during the emotional and advertising-intense holidays.



During the holidays, or in stressful times, “instead of making a lot of changes, make none, or make ones that play to your strengths,” said Carducci, psychology professor and director of the Shyness Research Institute.

Jack Raglin, at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, says half of the people who dive into new exercise plans – something many people do this time of year — will ditch them, and usually within two months.

“Staying with it is incredibly hard for most people,” said Raglin, a psychologist in the school’s Department of Kinesiology who conducts research on exercise and sport.

But it’s not impossible. Raglin also offers tips for giving a workout plan more staying power. These include exercising with a buddy, choosing a class or workout facility that meets your comfort level, and enjoying the immediate mood-boosting and stress-relieving benefits of exercise rather than waiting for the long-term benefits, such as longer life, better health and weight loss.

When it comes to exercise and fitness, I’d like to see people find what interests and/or works for them, not what works for their colleague or the Kardashians. Jeanne Johnston, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, published studies in the past year involving workouts in a virtual world (Second Life) and the use of an alternate reality game, which combined real-world and cyber activities. Both initiatives proved effective.

I found the Second Life study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, particularly interesting because there was little difference in weight loss between the people who worked out in an actual gym and the study participants who took their avatars to a fitness club in Second Life.

The plugged in contingent also reported significantly greater gains in behaviors that could help them live healthier and leaner lives.

“The virtual world program was at least as beneficial as the face-to-face program and in some ways more effective,” Johnston said. “It has the potential to reach people who normally wouldn’t go to a gym or join a program because of limitations, such as time or discomfort with a fitness center environment.”

My mother, aunt and grandmother swim laps at their local YMCA and chit-chat, to the amusement of other swimmers, as they swim back and forth. Conversational swimming is a bit unconventional, but they get a great workout and they keep going back – combining several of Raglin’s recommendations.

“For many people, their exercise routine becomes their social network, which brings with it social obligations,” Raglin said. “If you see it’s raining outside and think, ‘Maybe I’ll skip my walk today,’ it’s an entirely different matter if people are waiting for you.”

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