Many of us will have started 2018 with a panicked determination to finally sign up for a gym membership.
But too much new year guilt about your weight may be very bad for your health.
A psychologist has warned that worrying about how much exercise you are getting may lead to premature death.
It is thought the stress leads people into unhealthy behaviours like drinking too much – and instead of motivating them to do exercise prevents it.
This can raise the risk of dying over the next two decades by more than 70 per cent, evidence shows.
Dr Robin Bailey, a behavioural psychotherapist from the University of Central Lancashire, said: ‘This is the time of year when people start to engage in a lot of worry about exercise. They worry about having eaten too much?...?over Christmas and the way they want to look in the new year.
‘However this stress has been linked to negative effects on health, as people who are stressed engage in unhealthy behaviours, whether that is smoking, drinking too much or failing to exercise because they are so worried about it.’
Writing on The Conversation website, he added: ‘A starting point with exercise is to give up worrying how much physical activity you are doing compared with others.’ Dr Bailey made his warning based on two US studies showing worrying too much about exercise could do more harm than good. One by Stanford University last year, which looked at more than 60,000 people, found those who thought they were more inactive than average for their age group were 71 per cent more likely to die in the following 21 years than those who believed they were more active.
This might be because people who worry they are unfit are more negative – fuelling feelings of damaging stress and depression.
The second study, from 2007, showed hotel workers who were told they met healthy exercise guidelines through cleaning actually lost weight. Researchers from Harvard University found these workers had lower blood pressure and body fat if they believed they were active – regardless of how much activity they actually did.
* Decades of damage to your heart musculature caused by a sedentary lifestyle could be reversed by a two-year-exercise programme, a study found. Researchers from the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Texas found that workouts four or five times a week significantly decreased cardiac stiffness in 45 to 64-year-olds.