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Persistence, accountability may help people keep New Year's resolutions

Bridget Manley

— As the old year dwindles down to its final hours, many people turn their thoughts to the new year – specifically, the changes they want to make in it.

But resolutions take more than the dawn of a new year infused with good intentions.

They also require motivation, residents say.

Resolutions to become physically fit and lose weight become popular after the new year, said Trapper Health Club manager Jim Gregoire.

The resolution is also commonly broken.

The health club experiences an influx of business after the first of the year, as do most health clubs, Gregoire said.

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“That’s notorious across the nation,” he said.

By March, approximately 50 percent of gym newcomers nationwide stop exercising regularly, he said.

Only 20 percent of people who resolve to maintain an exercise schedule keep their promise for more than six months, he added.

To help people keep their resolutions, the health club offers booklets, exercise programs and the occasional pep talk.

Yet, change doesn’t often come easy.

“Talk is cheap inside your head,” Gregoire said. “Changing your lifestyle is awfully hard.”

For the health club manager, the key to staying motivated months after the resolutions are made is focusing on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, which can include increased mobility and avoiding diabetes later in life.

“I think (New Year’s resolutions) are a good thing,” he said, adding they make people evaluate their lives.

But do they work?

On the whole, “Probably not,” said Karrie Booth, Holistic Health and Fitness co-owner.

Although this is her first year at Holistic, Booth has been in the fitness industry before. And like Gregoire, she’s seen gym attendee numbers ebb and flow after the new year.

“It’s an industry standard,” she said.

In her opinion, making New Year’s resolutions is a custom that gives people a reason to make a change.

And she believes that with some help from a friend, change can be made.

People are more likely to reach personal goals if others are willing to “stand over” them and keep them accountable, she said.

An upcoming program at the gym does just that.

To accommodate the New Year’s resolution crowd, the gym will offer four- and eight-week “Fit Camps” where participants will be supervised by class leaders.

The same persistence and accountability required to maintain a regular exercise schedule may help beat other habits, like using tobacco.

And like other resolutions, the determination to quit smoking or chewing tobacco can be difficult to keep, a local health official said.

Quitting smoking is a common resolution people make at the year’s end, said Heather Berchall, Visiting Nurses Association community health educator.

Berchall keeps track of monthly calls made to the Colorado Quit Line, a telephone counseling service for individuals who want to quit smoking.

“Around New Year’s, we see a big jump” in QuitLine calls, she said.

She estimates that some QuitLine users do experience success while others “taper off” during the year.

Because smoking is often an addiction, it can be difficult to quit, she said, adding that some individuals try to quit up to seven times before succeeding.

The nicotine addiction connected with smoking make it an especially pernicious habit to kick, she said.

Nicotine addiction can be overcome and may be accompanied by other lifestyle changes. Some long-time smokers have to try various approaches – including nicotine gums, patches and pharmaceutical treatments – before finding one that works.

In the end, quitting smoking – like maintaining other New Year’s resolutions – may require dogged persistence.

Berchall offered a word of advice for would-be quitters.

“Keep trying,” she said. “Some people quit for good.”