By Taryn West
As another year rolls around, many of us stand determined to tackle another New Year’s resolution related to our health and well-being. We set goals to lose weight, eat a healthful diet and stop smoking. After a few weeks of being on our best behavior, many of us relapse into our old habits.
Behavior change can be a challenge, especially when it comes to our health. Setting realistic goals for yourself and starting out slowly can help get you on track to living a healthier life.
If you’re looking to make a change in 2014, try starting with one of these 10 recommended areas of focus. These are the areas where change can make a significant positive impact to your health.
About 47 million Americans are at risk for significant mood, performance, health, and mortality consequences because they aren’t meeting their minimum sleep need in order to be fully alert the next day. The goal is to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. If you’re not, it’s time to evaluate your habits and plan for success. Make time for seven to nine hours each night and set up a quality environment to promote continuous and uninterrupted sleep.
A certain level of stress is good for us but when that stress occurs consistently over time and starts affecting our sleep, weight, blood pressure and overall health, it’s time to find some balance. There are many effective coping skills used to deal with the 50 signs and symptoms of stress including meditation, time management, hobbies and exercise. Take time to recognize what your stressers are and try a few coping methods to see what helps get you back in balance.
Do you know how much you move each day? The recommendation is to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day, but the average American adult takes just 5,100 steps each day. To find out how much you are moving, wear a pedometer for a week and log your total steps each day. If you are below 10,000 steps a day set some realistic goals for yourself. For example, if you average 5,000 steps a day, you might set your goal for the first week to increase your steps by 300 each day. Once you achieve that goal you can bump your number of steps up again. Continue this goal setting until you achieve the 10,000 steps a day recommendation.
As we age, we lose both muscle and bone mass. Resistance-training can help reduce this loss. A reduction in osteoporosis, low back pain, hypertension and diabetes are also associated with resistance training. Improvements in body composition, balance, stability, coordination and flexibility also occur. Whether you choose to use machines, free weights, bands or your own body weight, incorporate resistance training into your weekly routine.
Find Your Flexibility
In our goal to be active and fit, many of us forget the importance of incorporating exercises that promote flexibility. As we age, our flexibility and strength decrease, which can eventually lead to a reduced ability to perform activities of daily living like bathing, getting dressed and even feeding ourselves. So, take care of your joints and focus on flexibility.
Eat More Fruits & Veggies
Having a hard time getting two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables into your diet each day? Try a cup of vegetable soup for a snack, use veggies to fill up sandwiches, add grated veggies to casseroles, mix berries into your cereal, yogurt, or smoothies. Thinking outside of the box can help you increase your consumption of these important foods.
Make at Least Half Your Grains Whole
Wanting to get more whole grains in your diet but can’t quite make the switch? Go “halfsies” and prepare half regular pasta with whole-grain pasta, half white rice with brown, or try whole wheat white bread. There are many benefits associated with eating whole grains. Increased fiber helps reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, reduces constipation and helps with weight management.
Size Up Sugar
The average American consumes 22.5 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Focus on limiting added sugars that provide no nutrition, other than calories. To know if a food or drink has added sugars, look at the ingredients list. If a sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients, it’s likely that a large part of the sugar in the food is from added sources. Foods such as fruit, dairy, and vegetables contain natural sugars but are also full of essential nutrients. Keep these foods as staples in your diet for well-rounded nutrition.
Say Goodbye to Tobacco
Tobacco use does nothing good for our bodies and can lead to cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases. On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers and the harmful effects of cigarette smoking account for about 438,000 deaths each year in the United States. So, if you currently use tobacco, the best health decision you can make is to quit. For more information on quitting, contact the Washington State Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW and www.quitline.com.
Strength in Numbers
Sometimes it takes additional support to motivate us to make changes. Find a friend or a family member to help keep you on track. Try exercising with a friend or encourage your spouse to support you in good nutrition. Sometimes having that extra support and accountability is the push we need to keep going.
When trying to make a lifestyle change, don’t underestimate the power of setting goals, which can be highly effective if done right. To get started, use the SMART goal format: Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-specific.
A SMART goal provides information about the steps necessary to accomplish the goal, the timeline for completion, and the resources and skills necessary. SMART goals place equal emphasis on a measurable process as well as the outcome.
Instead of tackling everything at once, choose one or two items on the list to focus your efforts. Remember, in terms of lifestyle change, slow and steady wins the race!
Taryn West is a Wellness Coordinator for MultiCare Health System’s Healthy@Work program. For more information about the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living call 1-800-485-0205 or visit www.multicare.org.