01/07/2014 05:37 pm ET Updated Mar 09, 2014

Resolutions... or Way of Life?

5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Happy New Year! I am confident your intentions are nothing but good as you resolve to become healthier and exercise more this year -- often times while holding a glass of champagne and reveling at midnight. However, as many of us know all too well, sometimes our resolutions don't even make it to the next morning, much less the rest of the year. The University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology stated that 45 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions--the most common among them including losing weight and staying fit -- yet only 8 percent of people actually achieve their goals.

So the evidence is clear that New Year's resolutions, while good in theory, rarely pan out in practice. My suggestion then, is do away with resolutions all together and instead focus on simply making fitness a part of everyday life that is as integral and sustainable as brushing your teeth each morning. This year, rather than make empty promises or set unattainable goals, resolve to make positive and small long-term lifestyle changes that will make you the healthiest and happiest you've ever been. So where do you start? The following tips will help you lay out a lifestyle plan and get on track:

1. Make fitness fun for you. We're unlikely to stick with something we don't like, so find out what it is you genuinely enjoy doing. Exercise can take on so many different forms that it in no way has to be confined to participating in any activity you view as an unbearable chore. Hate running on the treadmill? Go for a hike and get some fresh air while exploring the great outdoors. Do you love to dance? (Okay--you know I love this one!) Attend group dance fitness classes. Do you prefer a healthy dose of competition? Convince your friends to join a recreational sports team with you. Understanding what you like will help you identify your strengths and formulate a life plan that you are more likely to stick with.

2. Start small. Be realistic in terms of both your short-term and long-term goals. Work on changing one behavior at a time and take small, clearly defined steps towards your ultimate goal. Want to lose 20 pounds? Start by eliminating desserts for a week. The following week, add in just one or two exercise sessions. Setting small, attainable goals will help you mark your progress and feel successful with each passing week.

3. Don't give up! I will tell you right now, you're going to have days in which you simply cannot resist that slice of cake or muster the energy to exercise. It's perfectly normal to get off track, but don't let those moments define you or ruin your determination. Brush yourself off and keep on going! Find ways to stay motivated such as involving friends who can help keep you accountable or rewarding yourself with something small after each personal success.

What are the benefits of making exercise a lifestyle rather than an abstract goal? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, promoting exercise as a way of life leads to reduced blood pressure, cholesterol and waist circumference. If those aren't reasons enough, how about increasing your longevity, quality of life, happiness, and confidence? Remember -- make it fun, start small, and don't give up. Wishing you all health and happiness in the coming year!

Judi Sheppard Missett, who turned her love of jazz dance into a worldwide dance exercise phenomenon, founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in 1969. The workout program, which offers a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing movements, has positively affected millions of people worldwide. The international franchise business hosts a network of 7,800 instructors teaching more than 32,000 classes weekly in 32 countries. For more information, visit