At the start of a new year, people often make health- or fitness-based resolutions. The challenge is to follow through so your vision becomes reality. Research shows that it takes, on average, 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Put another way, if you start Jan. 1 and commit through The American Legion’s birthday March 15, you will likely have established a habit and be on your way to the healthy changes you want.
Here are tips on how to commit to some common health resolutions:
Resolution: Improve sleep
Why it matters: Sleep is important because it allows the body to recover and reduces the risk of serious health conditions, including weight gain, heart disease and depression.
How to: Decrease screen time before bed, reduce noise and light pollution in your bedroom, cut back on caffeine and get to bed at a consistent time. Also, limit alcohol consumption; it may make you sleepy, but it disrupts deep sleep patterns, reducing sleep quality.
Resolution: Lose weight
Why it matters: Being overweight or obese can lead to diseases and metabolic abnormalities such as hypertension, abnormal lipid levels, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea
and breathing problems, and overall poor quality of life.
How to: Diet and exercise are the two most obvious ways to control weight gain, but the first step is to understand your weaknesses and commit to change. If you don’t exercise, start by walking for 30 minutes a couple of days and go from there.
Resolution: Move daily
Why it matters: Sedentary lifestyles increase risks of diseases, depression and anxiety.
How to: Create goals that work for your lifestyle. I recommend an hour of walking per day. If 60 minutes seems too daunting, break it up into smaller chunks like two 30-minute segments or four 15-minute sessions. Make it social and ask friends and/or family to join you.
Resolution: Eat healthy
Why it matters: Good nutrition is essential for reducing risk of chronic diseases. Adults who eat a healthy diet live longer and have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
How to: Create a plan for what you will buy at the grocery store, what you will make at home and what you will order when dining out. Don’t force yourself to eat things you hate; incorporate healthy options you can tolerate into your meals.
Resolution: Drink more water
Why it matters: Proper hydration improves energy levels and brain function, can aid in weight loss and maintains electrolyte balance.
How to: Give yourself visual cues by keeping a water bottle within eyesight. If you see it, you’ll be more likely to reach for it. Also, if you drink a lot of sodas, juices or energy drinks, start by replacing one with water daily.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District.