July 17, 2019 | 78° F

Rutgers professor suggests realistic New Year's resolutions

Photo by Benjamin Chelnitsky |

While most New Year's resolutions are based around fitness and wellness. But Brandon Alderman, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health, said having a better diet can contribute to brain health as well.

Only 8 percent of people who set New Year's resolutions will accomplish them, according to Forbes.

“What often happens is, we set resolutions with really distal outcomes,” said Brandon Alderman, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health. Alderman also holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Exercise Science. “The outcome occurs much later. We’re not getting immediate feedback on those goals that we set.” 

According to The Washington Post, most resolutions are based around fitness and wellness. The article found that Google searches for the term “gym” annually spike around the new year and Gold's Gym reports a 40-percent increase in traffic during the turn of the year.

Alderman said resolutions to exercise more are worth it not only for its impact on physical health, but for its effects on mental and brain health as well.

“A lifestyle that incorporates regular physical activity might result in better brain structure and function. There are a number of brain regions that are larger in those who exercise or are physically active relative to those who are not,” Alderman said.

He said that diet contributes to brain health as well. But certain data regarding fitness and brain health still remain unresearched.

“Diet certainly contributes to brain health, that is for sure. How exercise and diet interact to impact brain health still remains to be studied,” Alderman said.

Rutgers students are also taking part in New Year's resolutions, though not necessarily ones involving fitness. Joseph Arning, a School of Arts and Science first-year, said his resolution is to take part in more community service.

“My resolution for this year is to do more community service. A lot of times, I notice that a lot of community service projects do not have all the help they need, so it would be good to provide that help,” Arning said.

He said he wants to also attend more of his classes as one of his goals for the new year. 

Chris Aimone, a Mason Gross School of the Arts first-year, also set a non-fitness related resolution.

“I need to really get out of my head more and stop caring about people judging me and realize that I just need to live my life,” Aimone said.

Aimone said he had set a resolution in 2015 to exercise more, which he succeeded in doing.

“A couple of years ago, I set the most typical resolution of being more fit,” he said. “Ever since then, I have not stopped doing it. Now, I continuously go to the gym, seven days a week.” 

Focusing on the immediate benefits of exercise may help those struggling to keep their fitness-centric resolution, Alderman said. The instant benefits of exercise include feelings of bodily euphoria and stress relief. Fitness time can be used to get away from a busy schedule.

To those struggling with keeping their goals, Alderman said focusing on short term benefits of their resolution — whether the resolution is fitness-based — as encouragement to continue. 

Aimone also said this strategy works.

“I think that the problem with New Year’s resolutions is the name itself. It is a New Year’s resolution, so it is the assumption that the goal will take a while. You can not look at it that way, because that is much more difficult. It is a broader scope than you need to have. You need to think about every day, just getting through the day,” Aimone said.

Izzy Valdés, a Mason Gross School of the Arts first-year, said the issue with resolutions is that they are often based around material or physical rewards, rather than mental or emotional ones. 

“People should keep their resolutions realistic,” Valdés said. “I think a lot of people make resolutions, and they just think of surface things, and not whether their goals are attainable.” 

Alderman said he has theorized as to why people set New Year’s resolutions in the first place.

“I think what Jan. 1 often does, is that it serves as a reminder. It is a date that just reminds people of some of the things that they want to incorporate into their lives. More than anything, it is a time that allows people to reflect,” Alderman said.

Jake McGowan

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