Aside from New Year's Day, a decision to get in shape doesn't usually happen overnight. Plus, once you get started with a new workout plan, your motivation can wax and wane from week to week. According to researchers at Penn State, these fluctuations may be your downfall.

Researchers examined college students’ intentions to work out as well as their actual activity levels and came to two primary conclusions: First, the motivation to exercise fluctuates weekly. And second, these fluctuations are directly linked to behavior—those with the strongest intentions to exercise displayed the best chance of actually following through, while those with the greatest variations in motivation had the hardest time sticking with exercise.

"There's a notion that when you want to start a new fitness regimen it's all or nothing, but change is a series of different stages with different ways to get you to each next stage," says Elizabeth R. Lombardo, PhD, psychologist, and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. These students may have been trying to skip over one or more of the five steps or "stages" required to make a permanent change.

It's all about motivation, Lombardo says. "Are you more motivated to make positive changes or are you more motivated to stay on the couch and eat chips?"

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