Alison Phillips (photo courtesy ISU)

Thousands of Iowans are likely headed to a gym today in hopes of keeping a New Year’s resolution to exercise and lose weight. Studies suggest around 80-percent of those people will fail or quit exercising by March.

Alison Phillips, an assistant professor of psychology at ISU, has studied the behaviors of people who’ve been able to develop and maintain exercise as a habit. She suggests newcomers to exercise should choose an activity they might come to enjoy — even if that’s not the case at first. “Know that, with practice, you will come to like it more. That’s the good news, but it’s not going to be easy to develop the habit,” Phillips says.

“The benefit of habit is once you have it, that is what’s easy to maintain. It’s still going to be tough at first, but choose something you find relatively enjoyable and know that the more you stick with it initially, the more you’re going to come to like it.”

Some people may never come to “enjoy” exercise, but Phillips suggests there are byproducts they might appreciate. “Stress reduction is a form of enjoyment, at least the way I’m speaking about it. So, you might not love your exercise, but if you feel better – less stress – while you’re doing it, that counts,” Phillips says.

Phillips’ study involved monitoring the activity levels for people just starting to work out along with those who had been exercising regularly for at least three months. The results were published in the journal Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology.