Starting an exercise program is easy. It's the follow-through that gets dicey: Research shows that most people quit working out in less than six months. Use these scientifically proven strategies to fail-proof your fitness plan.

By Megan Bingham

Phone a Friend

It's simple, but one of the most effective ways to slim down. Women lose an average of 10 pounds when they diet and exercise with a partner, according to a recent study. "Having a partner gives you a support system," says Robert Reames, Gold's Gym Fitness Institute member and personal trainer. Sharing the journey to better health also makes it easier to stick to commitments when your willpower wanes.

Power Up

When you're feeling tired, grab your sneaks. Researchers from the University of Georgia found that regular exercise relieves fatigue better than resting. That's because getting your blood pumping causes oxygen to circulate throughout your body, which leads to a sensation of euphoria. Tweak your routine to make it harder to blow off exercise. "Bring clothes to work so you have no excuse not to head to the gym or the park before going home," says Reames. "You'll feel better if you make your workout a priority."

Stay on Track

People who use online tools to monitor their progress are more successful at keeping pounds off than those who don't log on, reports a recent study. "It creates accountability," Reames says. "You have to get on the computer and come to terms with what you've done—it's great motivation since you don't want to write that you skipped a workout." Journaling also reminds you of how far you've come, Reames adds. "You can easily look back and see how many inches you've lost or how much your running time has improved."

Reward Yourself

Set goals and determine what you'll get when you achieve them. "If you're going to be rewarded, you're going to do the work," Reames says. He recommends choosing health-oriented perks, like a trip to the spa or a meal at a healthy restaurant.

Originally published in the October 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.

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