In a poll on New Year's resolutions, nearly half of Americans surveyed (45 percent) said their top 2018 New Year's resolution was to get in shape or lose weight. Not surprising. Year after year, fitness ranks as one of the most desired New Year's goals.

And why not? What better way to get a fresh start and help chart a course for personal success?

If you're not one of the millions of people seeking improved fitness in 2019, Brett Hanson, MBA, MBF, DFSS -- an executive at American Specialty Health Fitness who has nine gym memberships -- offers some convincing reasons to reconsider.

1. Setting fitness goals helps establish patterns for success.

If you want to foster goal-setting habits, joining a gym is a good first step that can not only help you develop new health habits, but can catapult you closer to your business goals too. Achieving success in one area of your life is a powerful way to promote positive habits in other areas of life. Make sure you set small, achievable goals to begin. For some, just getting to the gym a few times a week is a great goal. Once you're seeing success in your fitness goals, you may be inclined to "up your game" and set new goals in your business or personal life.

2. Improved fitness may help prevent the unthinkable.

It's proven that the leading causes of mortality -- heart disease, cancer and stroke, for example -- are preventable and can be reduced dramatically through lifestyle changes, including exercise. Yet, nearly 80 percent of Americans don't get the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Don't be one of the 80 percent. Think about what kind of condition you want to be in when you're 40, 50, 60 and older. Then change your habits accordingly. 

3. Exercise offers stress-busting benefits.

Exercise releases the brain's feel-good neurotransmitters -- called endorphins --- which can generate feelings of euphoria. Exercise also reduces stress by forcing us to concentrate on our movement, rather than problems at work or home. And, exercise can improve sleep. All these factors can contribute to a greater sense of control over life, reducing stress levels.

4. Employers can help.

Employers recognize the value of fitness in reducing healthcare costs, so many are willing to support employee fitness. Some offer wellness programs that pay you with gift cards or reduced health care premiums if you meet daily activity goals. Others offer subsidized fitness center memberships at costs well below market rates. For example, through an employer-sponsored program called Active&Fit Direct, employees can purchase a membership at any of nearly 10,000 fitness centers nationwide for just $25 a month. If getting fitter is on your list of resolutions this year, check with your employer to learn what fitness incentives or wellness benefits are offered.

There's no time like the present -- or the New Year -- to establish your success strategy for 2019. Make fitness your goal, and you'll reap rewards that will last a lifetime.