As the New Year gets underway, there’s no better time to change your habits. If you haven’t set any goals, it’s not too late.
The key is to have some parameters around your goals, whether it involves losing five pounds, trying to be compliant with a daily vitamin routine, or getting to bed by 10pm each night. And if you miss a day of vitamins or stay up late one night, don’t consider it a failure, remember that you’re human. Adopting new habits doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, research shows it takes about 21 days for a new habit to kick in.
Here are some ideas for goals to go after this year.
1. Cut back on sugar
Sugar’s role as a contributor to a number of health issues has been well documented. Most notably, it contributes to chronic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and challenges the immune system. Yet, cutting it out completely is easier said than done. Sugar is in 73% of packaged foods, including items such as yogurts, dressings, and crackers. While you can switch to more natural sweeteners that score lower on the glycemic index, your best strategy is to try to reduce your total sugar consumption. To do so, start paying close attention your food labels. If the sugar seems high, swap that item for one with lower sugar content. For instance, choose flavored water over soda, plain yogurt instead of flavored fruit yogurt, and naturally sweetened dietary supplements instead of sugar-packed vitamin gummies.
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2. Exercise consistently
That doesn’t mean you have to go crazy. For healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity… or a combination of both. What does this mean for you? You don’t have to become a CrossFit champion or marathon runner to succeed. Moderate exercise includes walking, gardening or swimming. While vigorous includes activities such as running or cycling. Experts also agree that it’s best to do a mix of aerobic and non-aerobic activities, such as weight lifting or resistance training, which helps to maintain bone density, muscle strength and balance, all of which are especially important as we age.
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3. Eat healthier, one bite at a time
With an ever-increasing number of American adults, roughly 2 out of every 3, now considered overweight or obese it’s important to consider how you might adjust your eating habits in the year ahead. Cutting back on sugar as outlined in number 1, is a really great start, with the ultimate goal to consume more nutrient-dense foods. To do so, focus on increasing your intake of vegetables, fruits and grains. Clean proteins, such as quinoa, seafood and poultry are also good, too. While traditionalists recommend a low-fat diet, the key is to minimize your intake of saturated fats—most commonly found in meats, baked goods, processed foods and whole-fat dairy products—and focus on eating unsaturated fats found in foods such as avocadoes, nuts, olives, olive oil and salmon
4. Be compliant with your daily vitamins
Even the best diet can have its pitfalls. Studies have shown that although we should be able to get all of our nutrients from food, we don’t. In particular, we fall short of eating the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. And when we miss getting essential vitamins and minerals, we miss out on key nutrients that have been reported to help lower our risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other health conditions. Being compliant with a daily multivitamin routine can help to make sure you stay closer to the nutrient levels needed to maintain optimal health.
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5. Sleep more
Once upon a time it was cool to brag about how little sleep you got each night. In today’s world, we’re more informed and understand the importance of sleep — and that most of us are falling short. One in three adults don’t get the sleep they need, which is at least seven hours a night according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What researchers also know now is that ongoing sleep deprivation affects cognitive function and brain health. It makes us prone to weight gain, more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease and compromises the immune system. To boot, if you’re eating healthier and exercising more but not sleeping, you won’t reap the benefits of your efforts. Studies have shown, that you won’t make gains from exercise if your body and muscles aren’t rested.
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