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Regardless if it’s Jan. 1 or a particularly optimistic Tuesday in September, it’s important to set goals and resolutions whenever we feel inspired. And wellness and health-based initiatives can be bolstered by specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals. During various times of the year, such as birthdays, New Year’s celebrations, or around significant events, we set intentions to become healthier and better versions of ourselves.

To gain insight into how people approach goal setting, we surveyed over 1,000 people who exercised at least once per week and set a goal related to their habits, fitness, and diet in the last year.

Why do most people set health goals? What drives us to fight through temptation to cheat or stop pursuing those goals? How many of us are actually succeeding? Continue reading to uncover our full findings and see how they might influence how you set your resolutions this year.

Health Goals and Alcohol

Health goals can span across multiple categories – including cutting out sugary desserts or alcoholic drinks. In fact, the fifth most popular health goal in the past year involved reducing or eliminating alcohol intake. Nearly 44% of respondents in our survey reported setting this kind of goal.

Most Popular Health Goals

Most people who set alcohol-related goals tended not to specify a particular time frame in which they planned to quit or reduce drinking. Most (around 40%) hoped to drink less, and nearly 1 in 5 wanted to stop drinking for an unspecified amount of time. However, this may not be the wisest choice, as experts recommend steering clear of vague goals for optimal success.

Outside of alcohol-related goals, many others aimed to exercise more, and some used technology to drive up their fitness gains: Nearly 21% of respondents aimed to use a device or app to track their activity, such as a Fitbit product or Apple Watch, the latter of which dominated the wearables market with a 37% market share in 2018. We found that women were more likely than men to involve a smart device or app to track their health.

Obstacles to Success

Deciding to focus on personal fitness is a brave first step toward better health, even though getting into shape isn’t always easy: Losing weight proved to be the most difficult goal to accomplish for our respondents.

What Holds Us Back

The biggest factor holding people back is a lack of discipline: Around two-thirds of respondents pointed to poor commitment as the primary reason they fell short of their fitness goals. Practicing self-control and self-discipline can allow us to channel our weaknesses and pivot our mindset in a positive direction. Additionally, time management and scheduling conflicts led to some concerns among survey participants.

At the end of the day, it’s easy to come up with excuses to interrupt a healthy eating plan or fitness goals. Despite a laundry list of reasons, only 29% of survey participants quit pursuing their health-related goals, indicating that most people are continuing to work toward personal milestones.

Obstacles to Achieving Alcohol-Related Goals

While discipline proved to be a key factor in accomplishing health goals overall, fear of missing out was the biggest obstacle for those who set alcohol-related goals.

Difficulty of Going Dry

Committing to a healthier lifestyle is tough, especially when it means changing your relationship with drinking: Nearly 40% said it was difficult to work toward an alcohol-related goal, but our survey results show it was more difficult for those who drank larger amounts each week.

However, the people we talked to who worked through their issues along the way benefited in the long run. On average, most people reduced their weekly consumption by half, with the average person cutting their intake from over nine drinks per week to just four and a half.

Reasons for our Resolutions

There are countless reasons to start living a healthier lifestyle, and everyone is going to be inspired differently. However, the most common motivator was a desire to improve physical health. Additionally, people motivated by a desire to improve their physical health were least likely to give up on their health goals, potentially gaining more inspiration after seeing some results.

Motivation Matters

Conversely, those motivated by saving money were most likely to give up on their goals. However, saving money was a top factor for nearly 58% of survey participants who decided to distance themselves from alcohol. This may offer some insight into why curbing alcohol’s influence can be easier said than done.

Nearly half of respondents who worked toward alcohol-related goals chose to do so to improve their mental health, with millennials leading the way in this endeavor. Recent research from the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that cutting back on alcohol can lead to better mental health, even among low or moderate drinkers.

Timelines for Setting Health-Related Goals

Good news: Most people surveyed (71%) were still working toward the goals they set in the past year. For many, joining a wellness initiative at work or saving up for exercise equipment can help expedite those goals. Talking about your aspirations and participating in daily journaling can also help someone stay focused and committed to their goals.

Pressure Points

At what point did our survey respondents find it hardest to keep going toward their goals? Those with diet goals gave up the soonest, around 13 weeks, and those who gave up on alcohol or their fitness goals lasted about 16 weeks each.

To put that into perspective, the average person setting a health-related goal on Jan. 1 would make it until the end of April. If you’re planning to set a New Years’ health resolution or intention, remember that it’s normal to want to quit, especially if you do not see results as fast as you’d hoped. Be patient with yourself, and remember that it’s OK to try again if you lapse before reaching your goals.

Goal Setting for the Best Results

Whether you’re setting New Year’s resolutions or weekly goals to lead a healthier lifestyle, it’s crucial to plan thoughtfully and set specific benchmarks for yourself. Put forth attainable objectives to keep you confident and moving toward your ultimate target.


We surveyed 1,004 individuals for this study using a web-based survey. To qualify, participants had to report working out at least once per week. Additionally, they had to have set a health-related goal in the past 12 months. The health goals could have been related to diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption, and more.

Those who had specifically set alcohol-related health goals answered a supplemental section of the survey, so some of their question-and-answer options differed slightly from those who only set diet- or exercise-related goals. In total, 441 participants had set a goal related to reducing or ceasing their alcohol consumption in the past 12 months.

Participants were asked to select all answer options that closely described the health goals they set in the past year. Then, among those goals, they were asked to select the ones they gave up on before accomplishing. Then, only those respondents specified the number of weeks they had pursued the goal before quitting.

52.8% of participants were women, 47% were men, and fewer than 1% were nonbinary or chose not to specify.

The average age of our participants was 36.1 with a standard deviation of 11.2. They ranged in age from 18 to 74.


This study was not completely comprehensive of all possible health goals and is not representative of all Americans. This is based on means alone and is purely exploratory. Responses were neither weighted nor statistically tested.

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Fair Use Statement

Sticking to those New Year’s resolutions can be tough. Discuss your plans with your friends and loved ones, and maybe you can recruit them, too! Be sure to share these findings (and cite us when you do). But please share this data for noncommercial purposes only.