Expert Opinion

Testing your new year's resolve after the festivities

In this blog post, Professor Ieuan Ellis, Dean and Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett, reflects on the challenges of keeping New Year’s resolutions.
So after the festivities and possible over-indulgences in food and drink over Christmas and New Year, for many of us Monday 4 January 2016 has signalled a return to the ‘normal’ routine of daily life and work. Possibly, like me, you have taken the opportunity of entering 2016 to make some resolutions to change your current lifestyle with the aim of improving your health and wellbeing.

While we can each change our lifestyle behaviours at any time of the year, for many the transition from old to new year provides a symbolically key date and new impetus to make a change (or several changes) in behaviours to adopt healthier personal lifestyles.

The most popular resolutions include losing weight, doing more exercise, changing diet and reducing or stopping alcohol or smoking. Public Health awareness campaigns are therefore swinging into action with renewed focus through social media, for example encouraging us to have an alcohol free #DryJanuary or, as announced today by Public Health England, take greater parental responsibility by using a new app to reduce the sugar intake of our children to tackle obesity.

Do New Year’s resolutions work?  Behavioural changes are often easy to make but seldom easy to maintain! Sudden, spur of the moment decisions made just before midnight on 31 December 2015 (glass of alcohol in hand) to make significant lifestyle changes are unlikely to prove successful. However often people plan lifestyle changes linked to their resolutions and evidence suggests that using new years’ resolutions to kick start behavioural change can be ten times more effective than changes made at other times of year. I recently came across this excellent animated video by Dr Mike Evans which provides an informative rationale for the effectiveness of lifestyle change through New Year’s Resolutions.

For my own part, as an already teetotal, non-smoker who has managed to re-establish a daily routine of exercise over my festive break from work, I have resolved to follow some of the advice I gave during my presentation ‘Sitting to Death’ at the recent Therapy Expo conference at NEC. As an academic, sitting is an occupational hazard and so I am determined to sit less and move more during the working day as well as run at least 5 times a week.

Wishing you a healthy and active 2016!