The dawn of a new year is a great time to take stock of the year that just passed and set goals for the next 12 months. Resolutions focused on improving personal health are especially popular, and for good reason. Improving one’s overall health can have positive implications for years to come.
Even with the best intentions, resolutions have historically proven hard to keep. Simplifying health-based resolutions can lead to a higher success rate and a healthier you.
• Walk more. It is easy to get preoccupied with the “10,000 steps per day” mantra that many people follow and that certain fitness trackers promote. Walking 10,000 steps daily, which equates to roughly five miles per day, is a healthy goal, but it may not be realistic for everyone. Take stock of how many steps you currently take each day, and then resolve to walk 2,000 more. As your body acclimates to walking more, add another 2,000 steps, continuing to do so until you reach 10,000 steps.
• Learn something new about being healthy. Informed health decisions require gaining a greater understanding of your body. Rely on a reputable source such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about how to be healthy.
• Spend less time on social media. Staring at your phone or tablet for multiple hours browsing tweets or checking messages might not be the best thing for your physical and mental health. Browsing the internet may take up time that could be better spent engaging in physical activity. According to Dr. Elia Abi-Jaoude, a staff psychiatrist at the Hospital for Sick Children and Toronto Western Hospital, various studies have shown how excessive social media usage can adversely affect relationships, sense of self, sleep, academic performance, and emotional well-being.
• Eat more whole foods. Whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fish, contain various nutrients the body needs to function at peak capacity. These foods may help reduce the risk of many diseases and help people maintain healthy body weights. Start slowly by introducing a new whole food to your diet each day. A gradual approach is more manageable than going on a drastic diet.
• Avoid sweetened beverages. You are what you eat, but also what you drink. A report published in 2006 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, particularly carbonated soft drinks, may be a key contributor in the epidemic of overweight and obesity. Skip sweetened beverages (even fruit juices can be unhealthy if consumed in excess) and opt for more water or unsweetened teas.
• Find a physical activity you like. Rather than resolving to join the gym or signing up for a 5K because it’s what everyone is doing, find a physical activity you truly enjoy and aim to do it a few times a week. Maybe it’s a sport like tennis or recreational cycling with the family. But if the idea of a gym membership excites you, then by all means sign up.
Avoid restrictive health and wellness resolutions that can be unsustainable. By downsizing expectations and taking small steps en route to your goals, you may be more motivated to stay the course and realize your resolutions.