Ten tips for a healthy New Year, but don’t try them all at once

MultiCare Health SystemJanuary 8, 2014 

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 healthy diet and stop smoking.

But after a few weeks of being on our best behavior, many of us relapse into our old, unhealthy 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.

When you try to make a lifestyle change, don’t underestimate the power of setting goals. They can be highly effective if they’re done properly.

To get started, use the SMART Goal format. Make sure your goals are:

Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. 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.

If you’re looking to make a change in 2014, start with one of these 10 recommended areas of focus. These are the areas where change can make a significant positive impact to your health.

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, call the state quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, or visit www.quitline.com or www.multicare.org/home/tobacco-cessation.

SLEEP MORE

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. Learn more at www.multicare.org/puyallup-sleep-center.

MANAGE STRESS

A certain level of stress is good for us, but when that stress occurs consistently over time and starts to affect 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 stressors are, and try a few coping methods to see what helps get you back in balance.

Get the facts at www.stress.org.

GET MOVIN’

Do you know how much you move each day? The recommendation is to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps, but the average American adult takes just 5,100 each day.

Our culture makes it easy to be sedentary – cars, drive-through windows and working behind a desk all day contribute to our lack of physical activity.

To find out how much you move, wear a pedometer (step counter) for a week, and log your total steps each day; if you are below 10,000 steps, set some 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 up your number of steps up again. Continue that goal-setting until you achieve the 10,000-steps-a-day recommendation.

Resources are available at www.shapeup.org or www.fitness.gov.

RESISTANCE TRAINING

As we age, we lose both muscle and bone mass. Resistance training can help reduce that loss.

A reduction in osteoporosis, low back pain, hypertension and diabetes also are 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.

Check out www.acefitness.org for exercise ideas.

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, and that eventually can lead to a reduced ability to perform activities of daily living, such as bathing, getting dressed or even feeding ourselves.

So, take care of your joints, and focus on flexibility. Your body will thank you.

EAT MORE FRUITS, VEGGIES

Are you having a hard time getting 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 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. Think outside of the box to help you increase your consumption of these important foods.

See more great ideas at www.eatright.org.

MAKE HALF YOUR GRAINS WHOLE

Do you want 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, and it can reduce constipation and help with weight management.

For more information, visit www.wholegrainscouncil.org.

SIZE UP SUGAR

The average American consumes an average of 22 1/2 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 list of ingredients. If a sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients, it’s likely that a large part of it is from added sources.

Foods such as fruit, dairy and vegetables contain natural sugars but also are full of essential nutrients. Keep those foods as staples in your diet for well-rounded nutrition.

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 to exercise with a friend, or encourage your spouse to support you in good nutrition. Sometimes it helps to have that extra support and accountability to keep us going.

Instead of tackling everything at once, choose one or two items from 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, call 1-800-485-0205 or visit www.multicare.org.

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