Now that we’re a few weeks into 2013, how are you doing with your New Year’s resolution? Many people start each year with ambitions to take on an aggressive workout regimen or lose a lot of weight but by now are already falling back into their old habits.
So, are you better off not setting goals at all? Don’t give up say the experts. The trick is to choose a meaningful goal and break it down into small steps that are achievable. Focusing on improving your health is always a wise choice. Here are some suggests and tips from our experts.
Snooze Your Way to Health
How are your sleeping habits? Did you know that 100 million Americans regularly do not get enough quality sleep? There are at least 84 known sleep disorders and they impact health overall.
One danger of poor sleep? Drowsy driving. In a recent study, 1 in 24 Americans admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the past month. It’s a scary statistic considering drowsy driving is the cause of one in six deadly automobile crashes! So how can you make sure you’re getting enough sleep?
“First, remember that just because you’re getting a good quantity of sleep doesn’t mean you’re getting good quality,” says St. Mary’s Sleep Center technician Lori Zobel. “If you’re sleepy frequently during the day, or are falling asleep during meetings, at church or while reading you may not be getting good quality sleep at night.”
Whether this describes you or not, chances are your sleep can be improved.
Zobel says better sleep starts with better eating habits. Be sure to eat regular meals throughout the day. Avoid eating right before bedtime, especially spicy foods which can cause heartburn and disrupt sleep. People who enjoy caffeine should cut that off at least six hours before bed. And for those who enjoy a drink or two, avoid that as well before bed. While it can make you feel sleepy at first, you may end up ultimately in a lighter stage of sleep or be awoken in the night to use the restroom.
“Our culture is also digitally obsessed right now,” says Zobel. “And that’s wreaking havoc on sleep. The best thing to do is keep phones out of the bedroom. The occasional noise can wake you up. In addition, the light from the screen can penetrate our eyelids and alter our brainwaves so we end up in an overall lighter stage of sleep. Both of these things will make you feel groggy in the morning!”
Your kids also benefit from more sleep. Keep in mind young children and teens need the same amount of sleep. However, teens who have gone through puberty typically don’t feel tired until late in the evening.
“It’s really hard to shift your teen’s sleep clock because it’s a natural thing they’re going through,” says Zobel. “Still, it’s important to keep electronics out of their bedrooms as well.”
You may consider bringing up your child’s sleep habits with a doctor if you find they’re snoring or having pauses in breathing at night. In addition, poor sleep can lead to attention issues during the day. So don’t chalk up trouble at school to Attention Deficit Disorder without looking at your child’s sleeping habits first.
Make Exercise Fun
Sleep is just one facet to good health. Getting more exercise is another. But for many people, lying on the couch is much more appealing than going to the gym.
“That’s why you need to make it fun,” says Michelle Pertzborn, an exercise physiologist with St. Mary’s Hospital.
Pertzborn recommends adding more activity to your life in 2013 if exercise is a turnoff.
“Rather than thinking that you need to run 30 minutes every other day, what if you instead participated in fun activities?” she asks. “In the winter months, try going sledding or cross country skiing, taking a walk through the Arboretum or going ice skating. If you’re not a fan of cold weather, instead go to your local high school and take part in their open swim time, check out some of the indoor rock climbing around the area or go bowling!”
Even a day trip that includes physical activity can have health benefits. For example, walk through a museum in Milwaukee or Chicago, take a tour of the Capitol or head north to the Wisconsin Dells and enjoy a swim in an indoor waterpark.
“The idea is to move as much as possible,” says Pertzborn. “Ideally you want to do something active four to six days a week. But if that’s too much, set a smaller goal and work towards your larger goal throughout the year.”
If you’re the competitive-type or want to keep track of your activity and have a smartphone there are lots of cool apps to try. Pertzborn recommends My Fitness Pal, Run Keeper and Map My Run. These will keep track of distance, calories burned and how frequently you are exercising, making it easy to monitor progress toward your goal
Kids can get in on the fun, too. Pertzborn says games like “Just Dance” can help you work up a sweat without even realizing you’re exercising!
A resolution to make healthier food choices is common, but also frequently tossed aside. So are there any ways to make your nutritional goals stick?
“The biggest thing you need to keep in mind is make your goals specific. If you say you’re going to eat healthier that’s a tough goal. But maybe you want to quit drinking soda or move from five a day to one a day. Those are more manageable goals. And once your goal becomes hard-wired - in about 60-90 days - then you can move on to something else,” says Marianne Merrick a clinical nutrition manager with St. Mary’s Hospital.
To make an even bigger impact, Merrick recommends writing your top three goals down. Then decide in what order you’ll work on them. It’ll make you feel good to cross them off as they’re accomplished. She recommends the following to get you started:
· Try to eat three brightly colored foods a day
· Swap a processed snack with fresh fruit or dried fruit
· Cook at home one night a week
· Try a new seasonal fruit or vegetable each week
· Switch all white pasta and rice to the whole grained variety
· Replace butter in your recipes with olive oil
“And if you’re into new technology, this is definitely a tool you’ll want to include,” adds Merrick. “Smartphone apps like Fooducate are great resources to help you eat healthier. And websites like choosemyplate.gov can help steer you in the right direction.”
After accomplishing your sleep, exercise and nutrition goals, 2013 could turn out to be your best year yet!