How to Make–and Keep–Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

Jina Kim, M.P.H.

It’s a new year, and it’s that time again for making resolutions. Most of the popular picks for yearly resolutions are related with health.

Many people are motivated as the New Year begins, yet once again they eagerly set goals and objectives only to be faced with disappointment. Why is it that resolutions fizzle out, and come and go like the fad of the latest pair of jeans?

To meet your new year’s health goals, keep in mind the following tips.

  • Make resolutions reasonable, specific, and realistic. For example, instead of saying, "I will drink less coffee," say "I will reduce to two cups a week." Or instead of saying, "I’m going to exercise more this year," say "I’m going to exercise 30 minutes, five times a week." You don’t have to list page after page, but rather write one or two main goals. Most importantly, take little steps; any habit-changing step takes time and requires patience.

  • Break up larger goals into small, reasonable segments. As you set your goals, do not promise to lose 30 pounds. Instead, start small and break up the goals into segments throughout the year. You can say, "I will eat healthier by…" or "I will increase and change up my exercise regimen." Gradually work up to your goal, or you may get frustrated and discouraged and possibly give up all together. Setbacks may occur within the year, but focus on the positive. Don’t be discouraged and unmotivated. Also, share your resolutions with someone who cares, and you’ll get the accountability and support you need to succeed.
  • Change it up! When it comes to weight loss and exercise, you may be tempted to make the same resolution year after year even when results were unsuccessful. Change it up–add something new to your routine. With exercise, just like with food, variety is important.
  • You may question why you aren’t losing weight if you are walking every day for 30 minutes. Although cardiovascular workouts are beneficial to your health, it is just as important to add strength training exercises. Muscle burns more calories than fat, and strengthening your muscles helps increase your metabolism. Also, if you are walking every day, include a different activity throughout the week such as biking or playing a favorite sport. Not seeing results? You can increase or adjust your intensity, frequency, and duration as you get in better shape.

  • Remember everyone is different. People have different bodies, motivation, likes and dislikes, backgrounds, and cultures. These elements factor into creating an effective exercise regimen. Not everyone will lose weight at the same rate or eat the same thing as someone else. It is important to plan a specific workout tailored for your specific needs and interests.
  • Components of a Healthy New Year’s Resolution

    With obesity on the rise, it is important that your lifestyle include (1.) at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity five times a week, (2.) 15 minutes of strength training alternating muscle groups every other day, and (3.) a balanced diet.

    The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association define moderate-intensity physical activity as "working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation." If you are an average, healthy adult seeking to maintain health and reduce the risk of chronic disease, you’ll need 30 minutes or more of physical activity. If you want to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you’ll need 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity.

    Walking, biking, swimming, and playing sports are good aerobic exercises to get your heart pumping and to stay fit.

    Remember to warm-up before doing stretches and exercises. It’s never a good idea to stretch a cold muscle. Jumping jacks or a quick walk on the treadmill for a few minutes are great ways to warm up. It is recommended to stretch both your upper and lower body to reduce injury and increase flexibility.

    Based on your goals, you will need to include the basics of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes. Also include weights in order to tone and strengthen your muscles. Start with a set of 12 repetitions and gradually increase the number of sets. A total-body workout is advocated because there is no such thing as spot reducing a certain area. For example, if you want a flatter belly, doing a hundred crunches won’t cut it. A combination of physical activity to burn calories and strength training for definition of tone is highly recommended.

    Now you know some of the basics, so ring in the new year with a healthy start! Make 2009 the year to start making little changes to pursue healthy habits.

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