Each new year brings the promise of a clean slate—a fresh start in all aspects of life. And with every year that goes by, we resolve to make big changes that will help us achieve overall self-improvement.
It’s no secret that the most popular New Year’s resolutions are always those that involve some variation of “eat healthier” and “exercise more”—and each year, we add them to our lists. But most people aren’t able to follow through with their resolutions, and they often end up quitting before they finish the first quarter of the year. One reason for this is that we often choose vague resolutions without creating a specific set of goals, and when resolutions aren’t clearly defined, it makes it that much harder to stay on track.
If you’re looking to be stronger, healthier, and happier this 2018, one of the best things you can do is to come up with specific New Year’s resolutions that include science-backed daily goals that are recommended by health experts.
You’ve probably listed this one down quite a few times in recent years, and you either want to follow through on it again or are hoping to finally keep it. Maintaining a regular exercise regime is essential for maintaining good health, but there’s no need to spend on expensive gym memberships or personal trainers. All you really need to do is make time—just a few minutes of your day—to sneak in a simple workout. Even just running up and down the stairs or doing a brisk walk around the neighborhood will suffice.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends a weekly physical activity goal of at least 150 minutes for moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both. But if you want to get truly specific, Dr. Edward Laskowski, co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and a professor at College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, suggests doing at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day.
We’ve all heard that sitting is “the new smoking.” Sedentary behavior has been proven to increase health risks in people across all ages, and even if you’re getting enough exercise daily, sitting for long periods of time can still be detrimental to your health. Therefore, it is advised that you find ways to increase your movement throughout the day.
According to the Cornell University Ergonomics, many ergonomists suggest that you break up prolonged periods of sitting by standing and moving for at least 1 to 2 minutes in 20-minute or 30-minute intervals. If this is not possible in your office or classroom, an alternative solution is to get yourself a piece of desk exercise equipment. One prime example is the HOVR desk swing, which is a highly effective movement tool that promotes constant lower body movement while sitting—without causing any mental distraction.
While there is no scientific evidence to back up the age-old advice of drinking eight glasses of water per day, it’s not too far off the mark. But of course, everyone’s water intake needs are different—it can depend on factors such as physical activity levels, weather or climate, and your individual state of health.
A good rule of thumb for ensuring proper hydration is to drink water until you no longer feel thirsty, or until your urine is pale yellow or colorless. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that women need at least 2.7 liters (11.5 cups) while men need at least 3.7 liters (15.5 cups).
In addition to keeping you alert, focused, and energized enough for your day, getting adequate sleep is essential to maintaining good overall health. Lack of sleep can slow down your metabolism, make you gain weight, and increase the risk of health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or stroke.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends sleep times of around 7 to 9 hours for adults aged 18 and above, and 7 to 8 hours for older adults aged 65 and up. Keep in mind that it’s always best to get uninterrupted, quality sleep, but if you have to break it up into segments, the important thing is that you hit the recommended number of hours.
Aside from the obvious psychological effects such as anxiety and depression, chronic stress also has physiological effects like high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Stress can actually kill you, which is why it is imperative to learn how to manage your stress levels effectively.
Dr. Sheila Patel of the Chopra Center cites meditation as a “powerful antidote to stress.” She recommends meditating for 20 to 30 minutes at a time in the morning and in the evening, or at least 10 minutes a day. She also says to try doing 3 to 5 minutes of deep breathing twice a day or whenever you feel stressed out, and taking 15-minute walks at the end of each day.
If losing weight or body fat is one of your biggest goals this year, one important resolution that you should make—in addition to eating healthier foods—is to plan and prepare your own meals. Cooking your own food lets you make healthier choices and helps you steer clear of fast food or convenience foods, which are usually very calorie-dense.
For people who don’t have much time on weekdays, the best (and most affordable) solution is to start doing meal prep. Set aside one day of the week for shopping, and another day (preferably over the weekend) to cook, portion, and store your food. If you’ve never done meal prep before, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests starting small—like cooking enough food for just 2 to 3 days, as opposed to the entire week.
If you haven’t already heard, sugar is the true dietary enemy—not fat. Apparently, too much sugar not only causes obesity and diabetes, but also heart disease and other serious health issues.
Many people are now cutting out added sugars (including “natural” sweeteners like honey and agave) from their diets. But if that sounds too difficult for you, you can simply resolve to limit your sugar intake. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that people limit their sugar consumption to less than 5% of their daily calories. This is equivalent to no more than 100 calories (for a 2,000-calorie diet) or six teaspoons of sugar per day for women, and 150 calories (for a 3,000-calorie diet) or nine teaspoons for men.
Excessive sun exposure leads to higher chances of skin cancer and premature aging. If you haven’t already made it a habit to wear sunscreen every day, we suggest that you add it to your New Year’s resolutions list to keep your skin healthy and youthful.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, which blocks around 93% of the sun’s UV rays. However, for intense or extended exposure, it’s best to opt for a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 (97% UV protection) or SPF 50 (for 98% UV protection).
Make sure to apply to all areas on the face and body that will not be covered by clothing.
Even if you think you’re relatively healthy, visiting your doctor for regular checkups should always be a priority. This allows your doctor/s to monitor your health and identify potential risks or issues that may be developing.
Early detection can make all the difference between life and death. Johnson Memorial Hospital recommends yearly checkups—particularly if you have any “family history of certain conditions such as high blood pressures, sleep disorders, or cancer.”
If you haven’t gotten around to your 2018 New Year’s resolutions yet, consider our suggestions above.
Remember—the best time to to start taking charge of your health is now.
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