Physiotherapists share tips to help make your new year’s resolutions stick

January 16, 2015

The New Year brings the incentive to get our health and wellbeing back on track. But for many of us, the resolutions we set on 1 January often turn into a challenge not long after, with mixed motivation and results.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) supports all those keen to kick start the New Year with goals to get physically active.

Research shows more than 6.4 million Australians are doing less than one and a half hours of physical activity per week. Time spent sitting is associated with being overweight or obese, chronic diseases and premature death.i

To avoid losing our start of year energy and momentum we have, APA Physiotherapist Taryn Jones (who is writing a PhD in self-management for physical activity at Macquarie University) and APA National President Marcus Dripps share tips to maintain lasting good health habits.

1. Getting started and preparing for change
“Use this time of year when we’re generally more motivated to build a solid action plan. Implement strategies to help make future behaviour easier and prepare for times when motivation fades,” Ms Jones said.

“Good preparation increases the likelihood of making changes. Write down your goal and how you want to get there,” APA National President Marcus Dripps added.

2. Start small and build steps to achieve your goal
“While this is a great time to revaluate priorities and harness motivation, make sure you’re realistic in managing your expectations,” Ms Jones said.

“Quite often people focus on the ‘all or nothing’ approach with their New Year’s resolutions. We have a natural flux in motivation – being mindful of this is important.

“With big picture ideals such as losing weight or getting fit, be specific with the behaviour you’re focussing on to get to these ideals. If your goal is to get fit – what activities are you going to do? When, where and how?” Ms Jones said.

“And remember to celebrate small successes when you reach small targets,” Mr Dripps added.

3. Remove barriers that may hinder achieving your goal
Before trying to achieve a goal, target potential pitfalls and troubleshoot them Ms Jones said. “Modern life is busy; we need to be realistic in what we can achieve and problem-solve solutions to obstacles in our way.”

“If you haven’t managed to reach your targets within a particular timeframe, do a self-check and make adjustments to your goal to be more achievable,” Ms Jones said. “If you begin to lose motivation, evaluate what’s not working: is it a realistic goal? How can I make changes to achieve my goal?”

4. Build your targets into an existing habit and lifestyle pattern
“Remember old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form,” Mr Dripps said. “Research shows behavioural patterns we repeat most often are etched into our neural pathways. Through planning, repetition and the right processes in place, it’s possible to form new habits and maintain them as well,” Mr. Dripps said.

Ms Jones said the best way to stick to a goal is to build your new behaviour into an existing habit. “Research tells us less conscious effort is required when incorporating into the right cue you do every day – it helps the behaviour become more automatic,” Ms Jones said.

“Some of the best cues are a stable event in your routine that’s in the right context for the desired behaviour. iv,v For example after I get out of my bed I will put on my running clothes,” she said.

“Being a mother of two, I know afternoons get particularly busy so setting a goal to exercise at this time wouldn’t work for me. Mornings are a more stable time to establish routines and when I find it easiest to weave in exercise as part of my everyday life. Everybody’s’ lifestyles and routines are different. It is important to find what works best for you and your lifestyle.”

5. Enlist support to stay on track and prevent set backs
Whether it’s quitting smoking, standing more or doing 30 minutes of exercise a day, research shows people who have the best chance of making changes are those who get some support.  “Whether its friends, family or a professional, enlist the support of those who want to see you succeed from the outset. They can help you when your motivation begins to wane,” Mr Dripps said.

“An APA Physiotherapists can help design exercise programs for people from all walks of life suited to your medical condition, while also helping you to stay on track.”

Call Nelson Bay Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre on 4981 3461 to arrange an appointment now. 


About Taryn Jones
Taryn Jones has been a physiotherapist for 18 years. She is passionate about creating a framework that empowers all individuals to achieve an active lifestyle, enhancing physical and emotional well being. In 2012 Taryn was awarded a Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship to undertake her PhD in Health Professions which she commenced in December 2012. Her PhD involved a series of studies to design, develop and test an innovative self-management course to increase physical activity in people with Acquired Brain Injury. It involves the design of an Active Lifestyle Model with four core areas to build and sustain physical activity for the long term – ‘managing activity levels’, ‘managing barriers’, ‘managing expectations’ and ‘managing habits’.

i   Monash University, Obesity in Australia, accessed at
ii  Psychology Today, Understanding Habit Formation, accessed on 11 December 2014 at
iii Bargh, J.A. (1994). The four horsemen of automaticity: Awareness, intention, efficiency, and control in social cognition. In R.S. Wyer & T.K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of Social Cognition: Vol. 1 Basic Processes (pp. 1-40). Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
iv  McDaniel, M.A. & Einstein, G.O. (1993). The importance of cue familiarity and cue distinctiveness in prospective memory. Memory, 1, 23-41.
v   Marsh, R.L., Hicks, J.L. & Hancock, T.W. (2000). On the interaction of ongoing cognitive activity and the nature of an event-based intention. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14: S29-41.
vi  West R, Shiffman S. Fast Facts – Smoking cessation. Oxford: Health Press Limited; 2004.