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10 Ways to take control of your health

Kathy A. Johnson is a freelance writer and editor in central Florida. Her work has appeared online and in print publications ranging from Mothers & More Forum to Horse Journal.

Be your healthiest in the new year

Have the last few weeks of family gatherings and holiday festivities left you feeling unhealthy and out of control? Take heart — a new year is upon us and with it, many ways to take back control of your health. Here are 10 tips to help you lose weight, get fit and increase the quality of your life.

Woman getting massage

1Quit smoking

If there's one thing that will make the biggest difference in your overall health, this is it. If you smoke, it's time to quit. It's not easy, but it will change your life. Visit www.smokefree.gov for information and support.

2Exercise

Regular exercise benefits the body in myriad ways. Aside from its importance for weight control, exercise boosts energy levels, improves your mood, revs up your sex life and much more. Though there is some controversy over how much exercise per day is enough, many studies have found that a minimum of 30 minutes per day of activity has health benefits. So take a walk, lift those weights or try that yoga class you've been curious about.

3Learn to relax

Don't let too much stress rob you of your physical and mental health. Relaxation techniques include listening to music, meditation, taking a walk, getting a massage or practicing progressive muscle relaxation (tensing each muscle group then gradually relaxing it). Incorporate one or more of these into your day and you'll feel calmer and more in control.

4Sleep

On average, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for optimum health. Individual sleep needs vary, however, and the best way to find out how much you need is to listen to your body — when you feel your best, how much sleep are you getting?

5Boost your brain fitness

Learn more about your health by subscribing to a health newsletter like those from Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic or WebMd (some are free and others charge a yearly subscription fee). You can also check out health-related websites or borrow a book on nutrition or wellness from your local library.

Up next: 5 more ways to take control of your health >>

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