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8 Realistic steps to a healthier you

Margaret Lewin, MD, Medical Director of Cinergy Health (www.cinergyhealth.com) is a general internist and leading women's health and prevention expert. Dr. Lewin is a 25 year health industry veteran, a Fellow of the American College of P...

8 sensible health goals

It's a new year: time to take stock and start anew for a healthier you! However, setting realistic goals is the key to healthy long-term success. Unrealistic goals can often fall flat and leave you feeling like you've failed. Here are eight lofty health goals and practical alternatives.

Woman going for afternoon walk

1. Train for a Triathlon

If you're not really up to that, think this through more soberly and at least walk a brisk 30 minutes every day. This will improve your cardiovascular and bone health, and clear your mind of daily stresses.

2. Get Your Waistline Back to 18 Inches

Unless you're planning to turn 10 years old again, consider that just adding 15 minutes of resistance training three times weekly to your daily walking can take that belt size down a notch – even without significant weight loss. Getting rid of belly fat is a major step toward decreasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

3. Go Vegan

On the other hand, if seitan doesn't look all that appetizing, find ways to make vegetables more interesting. Try serving them as a first course to diminish your appetite for less healthy foods. Eating two servings of fish weekly can soothe your conscience – because fish is low calorie protein, contains omega-3's for heart health and may even decrease your risk of mental decline as you get older.

4. Learn Ancient Greek

Learning a new language is a tall order that takes a lot of time and diligence. There might be more practical ways to stretch your mind and improve your memory: join a book club or sign up for classes at the local museum or university.

5. Volunteer Your Services in a Remote Country

A nobel desire that can be gratifying for your soul, going to a Third World country to help the needy isn't necessarily feasible for most people. But volunteering at a local organization can lift your spirits by giving to others, expanding your social network to include other volunteers, and making you more a part of your own community.

6. Stop Buying any and all Processed Foods

Some packaged goods are better than others. And do you really want to make your own mayonnaise and ketchup? You can, however, cut way back on salt and sugars (and save money as well) just by making your own vegetable and chicken stocks to use in cooking – freezing one cup portions in quart-sized freezer bags and letting them lie flat so you can defrost them quickly. Most importantly, read package labels more carefully, choosing products with no trans fats, limited amounts of hydrogenated and saturated fats, low salt and no added sugars.

7. Drink four Glasses of Milk Daily to Strengthen Your Bones

Milk is good for you're your bones, and dairy has also been linked with weight loss, but remember it isn't calorie-free. A more waistline-friendly alternative: just start taking 800IU of vitamin D daily and 600mg of calcium twice daily. The extra vitamin D has also shown promise in reducing your risk of influenza, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Excessive vitamin D can be dangerous, so ask your doctor to check your blood levels during your next preventive exam.

8. Daily Tai Chi Classes

You've heard about the benefits of Tai Chi, and attending classes every day would help decrease your stress, right? No way do most of us have time for that – and juggling your schedule may cause more stress than good. But you can break up stressful days by taking short breaks to stretch or to close your eyes, visualizing yourself in a restful environment such as a hammock deep in the woods, listening to the wind through the poplars, feeling that cool breeze as it gently swings you, and smelling that clean, fresh air. You can fit that in at any time.

There is no need to ditch your commendable health and fitness goals – they are certainly valuable –but taking just a sensible little bite out of each one is a more practical way to pave the way for a healthier, happier you.

More ways to better your health

For more health and wellness tips, visit the Cinergy Health medical library.

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