10 Ways to Improve Your Health This Year
Making a few basic changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact on your health. Below are 10 tried and true tips to help you get started on having a healthy 2017!
It’s A New Year! Let’s Do This!
1. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals— We start out the New Year with aspirations to change all of the things we don’t like about ourselves. We want to lose weight, get organized, eat better, exercise more, be more productive at our job. But by mid-January or the first of February we aren’t giving much thought to the resolutions we made a few weeks ago. By setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely, you’ll have a better chance of success.
Trim your big lofty goals down to smaller, smarter goals by asking these questions:
– What specifically will I achieve with this goal?
– How will I measure it?
– Is it achievable to me right now?
– Is it relevant to my larger goal?
– By what date will I achieve it?
2. Move More— A review in the Journal of Applied Physiology says that inactivity makes you insulin resistant and raises your lipid levels. These two factors, alone or combined, can put you at a greater risk for type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease. The Journal also says that prolonged periods of sitting make it harder for your body to burn fat and may even encourage fat storage. Finding simple ways to get more physical activity in each day can be easy and fun. A couple of things to try might be:
– Walk in place during the commercials breaks when you watch T.V.
– Get out of your chair and pace around when you talk on the phone
– Do a set of wall squats and desk push-ups every day at the office.
3. Cut Back on Sugar—Sugar is a substance that has 16 calories per teaspoon and zero nutritional value. Eating too much sugar adds inches without supplying any of the daily requirements for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Too much sugar also contributes to illness and chronic disease. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and no more than nine a day for men. If your sugar intake is out of control, tracking your sugar to make sure you stay within the AHA guidelines is a good place to start.
4. Get Cooking—It’s not impossible to eat a healthy diet when you dine out, but it’s definitely more of a challenge. Did you know that frequently eating foods prepared away from home is associated with obesity, higher body fat and a higher BMI. Plus, women who eat foods prepared outside of the home more than five times per week consume about 290 more calories, on average, each day than women who eat these foods less often. When you prepare meals at home, you control the ingredients, fat, sodium, calories and quality.
5. Take Up Strength Training—As you age you lose muscle. People that are inactive lose about three to five percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. That means, by the time you’re 50 you will have lost up to 15 percent. The loss of muscle tissue can generate a variety of inflictions including sarcopenia, osteoporosis, weight gain, loss of balance and decreased energy.
Adding a couple of strength training workouts to your cardio routine a couple of times a week can turn these conditions around or prevent them from occurring in the first place. Strength training is the key to looking and feeling younger than your age.
6. Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables — Fruits and vegetables add color, flavor and texture to every meal. Plus they are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. Set a goal to eat at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies every day. Experiment with different types by trying a new fruit or vegetable each week. Best of all, most varieties are low in calories and can be consumed in abundance without the fear of weight gain.
7. Start Your Day With Lemon Water— Squeezing a half of a lemon into a glass of water first thing in the morning is a good way to hydrate your system, cleanse the liver, and get a supply of vitamins and anti-oxidants that can give your immune system a boost.
The best reason to add fresh lemon juice to your diet several times a week is because they are super-charged with Vitamin C which is one of the most important antioxidants in nature. Anti-oxidants can protect healthy cells from free-radicals that can damage cell membranes, which ultimately leads to inflammation, pain and chronic disease.
8. Practice Mindfulness— Each day we have around 60,000 thoughts. Of those, 90% are not only repetitive, they are also negative. Psychologists refer to this as a brain loop and believe that these thoughts become so routine we aren’t even aware of the repetition of them.
Learning to live in the moment can help you break free of repetitive, negative thinking and can have a huge impact on your productivity, weight and health. According to Gregory Cherok, a sports psychology consultant with the American College of Sports Medicine, research shows that mindfulness meditation improves attention and sharpens impulse control.
9. Keep a Gratitude Journal — Gratitude guru Professor Robert Emmons has spent much of his adult life examining the psychology of gratitude and its connection with positive outcomes in a person’s life. Through his work he’s found that being grateful improves both psychological and physical health.
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, tend to take better care of themselves, and behave in a ore prosocial behavior. Giving thanks reduces toxic emotions, makes us less likely to want to seek revenge, and increases the empathy that we have for others. With all of the benefits that come from just being more grateful it seems like a no-brainer that this is something we should all be doing more of.
Use a journal to write down two or three things that you are grateful for each day. It will only take a couple of minutes and the rewards are well worth it.
10. Walk 10,000 Steps a Day – Taking short walks throughout the day, walking in place while you’re on the phone, and getting on the treadmill while you’re watching T.V. are some simple ways to get more walking in. To get to the goal of 10,000 steps a day, you’ll probably need to get creative and do something extra: park farther away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, pace around in your office or workspace, walk in place for three minutes after every hour of sitting.
One of the best ways to add steps is to prepare dinner for your family rather than going out to eat, running through the drive-through or nuking a heat-and-eat item from the grocery.
Keep Calm. You’ve Got This
Tackling all of these at one time would be overwhelming (and not very S.M.A.R.T). Pick one or two that you think you would benefit the most from, and get started today by setting and tracking achievable goals.