Woods walk

Online fitness challenges track activity such as hiking, walking and jogging to help participants reach their health goals. 

Photo provided by Carla Christian

There’s something about starting a new year that evokes images of a fresh start, and a better new year.  

This isn’t a modern phenomenon — it traces back 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians, who marked a new year with affirmations of loyalty to their king, promises to repay debts and return of items borrowed.  

In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar tinkered with the calendar to establish January as the beginning of a new year. Named for the two-faced god Janus, January symbolized looking backward into the past year and ahead into the future.  

The promise of a fresh start has lost none of its allure over the centuries. Forty-one percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions. But for all those good intentions, only 8 percent of people reach their goal, and 80 percent fail by February. 

That doesn’t mean those resolutions are pointless. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goal than those who don’t. The question really is, how to stay on track with those good intentions? 

Explicit goal setting and accountability is the answer. Your odds are 65 percent that you will complete a goal if you commit it to someone. If you have a specific accountability appointment with that person, your chance of success increases to 95 percent. 

That’s right, by having a system in place to record your progress, and by sharing it with others, you can increase your odds of success from 8 percent to up to 95 percent. 

The most frequently cited New Year’s resolutions year after year relate to health, weight loss and fitness. If you want to change your health habits this year, take advantage of an online health challenge to keep you on track wherever you are. 

Online challenges can provide a sense of accountability and keep you focused on your goals. Whether it’s a 30-day jumpstart, or a year-long route to change, there is a challenge to match any resolution. 

I Love to Run 

At ilovetorun.org, you’ll find challenges for every level of runner, from wannabe to pound-the-pavement veteran. They state, “the first step out the front door is the hardest, and we respect anyone who takes it.” The challenges are free, and you can purchase a medal or T-shirt when you have completed your challenge. There is always another challenge starting to keep the momentum going. 

Spark People 

Tools and support for adults who want to improve their diets, establish a healthy lifestyle, get physically active, and lose or manage their weight are available at sparkpeople.com. Challenges range from taming your sweet tooth to jumpstarting your workout, and many more.  

Whole Life Challenge 

Creating a healthier you in the new year is all fun and games at wholelifechallenge.com. This program focuses on creating 7 simple habits — nutrition, exercise, mobilize, sleep, hydrate, lifestyle and reflect — one at a time. Participants can play individually or join a team, and each day players get points for completing each of the 7 Daily Habits. Playing alongside a team is an important part of the Whole Life Challenge experience, keeping players motivated, on-track and accountable.  

Swim 4 Fitness 

Developed by UK swimwear provider Zoggs, swim4fitness.com offers swim tracking and individual and group challenges for swimmers. Challenge yourself and friends to escape from Alcatraz or swim the English Channel in one of the eight iconic swims, and watch your progress on a virtual map.

Run the Edge 

Run the Edge organizes fitness challenges for runners, walkers, hikers and bikers. Run the Year 2018 is a fitness challenge to run or walk 2,018 miles in the year 2018, either individually or with a team of up to four people. If you want to track multiple fitness activities, the Amerithon Challenge is a challenge to complete 3,521 miles as you run, walk, bike, swim, hike, elliptical or crawl, either individually or with a team of up to eight people. You can watch yourself virtually cross the USA and earn milestone badges along the way. Available at runtheedge.com.  

Diet Bet 

You can up the ante by betting on yourself to lose weight at

dietbet.com. Diet Bet leverages the power of accountability and social support. Players start or join a game by putting money into a pot and enter a starting weight accompanied by a photo of their scale. After the final day, players “weigh out,” and the pot is divided among anyone who has lost 4 percent of their body weight. You can roll your winning points into another game, or cash out when you reach your goal.


Start this new year with the tools to make your goals a success. With a virtual community of like-minded strivers, you’ll keep success within your sights.

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