“Eat right! Exercise more! Lose 10 pounds!” These types of New Year’s resolutions abound in January, but their proliferation distracts from other healthy resolutions that might make a bigger impact on your life. Instead of following the herd, consider making one of these 10 health resolutions that you’ve probably overlooked.
Worth the commitment
Ditch the standard workout
If you’re on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday routine of 30 minutes of cardio and a quick weight circuit, it’s time to bust out of your rut. Cardio and strength training are fabulous — necessary, even — but doing the same thing over and over won’t push you to new heights. Try an alternating schedule of fitness classes that always keeps your body guessing. Attend group cycle on Monday, yoga on Tuesday and barre on Wednesday, and then go running with friends on Thursday. Also mix up your schedule from one week to the next so you’re always trying something new.
Reduce sodium intake
“Sodium has infiltrated everything we eat, from prepared meats to ice cream,” says Christy Dean, a holistic health coach. Overdoing salt intake can lead to bloating, hypertension and kidney problems.
To reduce your risk, Dean suggests, “Drink plenty of water in between meals, even when you’re craving something salty. Often, our bodies trick us into thinking we’re hungry when we’re really just lacking adequate hydration. It’s also important to cook most of your meals at home to avoid excess water weight and bloating from restaurant portions laden with high sodium.”
Make quality sleep a priority
Our bodies run on sleep. When you sleep, your body recovers from the day, assimilates experiences and files away memories. Poor sleep leads to increases in stress hormones and hunger hormones that encourage overeating, particularly of fatty foods.
Jennifer McAmis, AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, says, “You can add incredible workouts, drink lots of water or eat your weight in fruit, but it won’t mean or do anything unless your body has time to recover and process all the great changes you are making for it.”
Aim for at least seven hours of high-quality sleep each night. Kick your pets out of your bed, turn off your phone and allow your body to really rest.
Something so simple and easy to overlook can make a huge difference to your health. The bacteria that build up between your teeth can cause inflammation that affects your entire body, not just your mouth. That means your heart, lungs and joints can all be affected by poor dental health.
Plus, Dean says, “Not flossing regularly is actually the No. 1 reason why we’re more prone to gum disease, plaque buildup and cavities. Once a day is all it takes.”
Make time for laughter
If you want an instant stress reliever that boosts mood and improves relationships, all you need to do is laugh!
Erin Kreitz Shirey, master trainer and CEO of Dig Deep, Play Hard says, “We often get so caught up in specific health, fitness and weight-loss goals that we lose sight of what’s important around us. We excel when our bodies are in balance, and laughing with friends and family helps keeps us in balance. It’s been proven in studies that laughter even adds years to your life, so laugh hard each day!”
Perform bouts of lifestyle fitness
Planned exercise is an important part of a healthy life, but don’t let it overshadow opportunities for “lifestyle fitness.” Lifestyle fitness is anything that adds activity into your life but isn’t a part of a strict exercise routine. For instance, Kreitz Shirey suggests walking or riding your bike to the gym, playing with your kids at the park instead of sitting on a bench or walking to your co-workers’ cubicles to deliver messages rather than sending an email. These little bouts of activity really add up and can even encourage more exercise. As they say, a body in motion stays in motion — so go ahead and get moving!
Cut down on screen time
We’re not talking about your TV here. Put down your tablet and cellphone and shut down your computer. Electronic devices zap energy, and overusing them can lead to depression — especially if you’re constantly scrolling through social media and imagining how much “better” everyone else’s life is. Designate screen-free time each day to engage with your family and friends while enjoying the moment. If you’re not sure where to start, try banishing electronics while eating dinner or turning everything off while you exercise. Even a short, 30-minute breather can help your mind relax.
Leave food on your plate
Disengaged, autopilot overeating plays a major role in weight gain, easily offsetting any hard work you’re doing in the gym. Shannon Colavecchio, ACE-certified group-fitness instructor and owner of Badass Fitness — a small group-training studio in Tallahassee, Florida — suggests resolving to leave a quarter of your food on your plate at every meal. In all likelihood, you’ve served up a larger portion than you really need, so resolving to stop before your plate is clear is an easy way to manage your intake.
Move around at work
If you get to work, sit down at your desk and don’t move again until it’s time to head home, this one’s for you. Prolonged sitting is a contributing factor to early death, even if you’re exercising on a regular basis. Set a timer on your phone to go off every hour, then spend at least five minutes walking around. Go refill your water bottle, do a few stretches, stop to chat with your employees or head outside for a quick dose of fresh air. You don’t need to run up and down the office stairs, but you do need to get up and move.
Eat a protein-packed breakfast
You know you should eat breakfast every morning to kick-start your metabolism, but a doughnut, bagel or cereal bar won’t do the trick. These items are packed with fast-acting simple carbs that lead to spikes in blood sugar, resulting in midmorning crashes and the inevitable stop at the office vending machine.
Holly Perkins, Promax Nutrition’s fitness ambassador, suggests starting every morning with a breakfast that includes high-quality protein. Proteins take longer for your body to break down and assimilate, so they keep you full longer and don’t lead to a blood sugar roller-coaster ride. Try a whole-wheat tortilla filled with eggs, tomatoes, spinach and low-fat cheese, or make a bowl of oatmeal with plain soy milk, dried cranberries and walnuts.