Choose one of these five goals for a healthier 2022
The new year often inspires a renewed sense of ambition when it comes to getting healthy.
But that excitement to eat cleaner, move more and take time for mental wellbeing tends to fade not long after January does. Dr. Jeffrey Rosen, bariatric surgeon at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, says the best way to set smart goals and stick to them is to keep it simple.
“Pick one goal to start,” he said. “The overall idea is to be healthier, so just pick one thing you can stick to and then you can always add more later.”
For those not sure how best they can strive for a healthier year, it’s best to ask a primary care physician, Rosen said. And for those with repeated trouble staying fit, there are other resources like dietitians or therapist that can help.
To start, Rosen suggests deciding which part of a healthy lifestyle is most important to you, or that you most want to improve upon and start there. That could center on moving more, eating healthier or even sleep. Here are five smart and attainable goals to choose from, broken down into those categories:
Download an activity tracker for your phone. This is an easy way to become aware of baseline activity levels during an average day, and then improve, Rosen said. Remember it’s not just about working out, but to also just move more throughout the day.
“Most of us work jobs that require us to sit for a long duration of time, whether it’s in the office or remotely,” he said. “Exercise only takes up maybe one or two hours, five or six days a week if you’re an extraordinary individual, so what are you doing the rest of those hours? Downloading a health tracker can help us track the non-exercise activity that takes up a majority of our time.”
Take a daily outdoor walk. Rosen suggests setting aside 10 to 15 minutes daily for extra activity, fresh air, and to decompress.
“Outdoor walking is one of the simplest ways to increase exercise. It isn’t as demanding or preparatory as running or going to the gym, which makes it easier to handle,” he said. “Making exercise more convenient can be a good way to overcome certain obstacles – physically or mentally – that normally deter you. Even if it’s cold, getting out of the stuffy indoor air can help clear the mind and reduce stress while giving you a change of scenery.”
Snack with purpose. An alarm on your phone can help stay on a snack schedule to avoid getting overly hungry, Rosen said. Pair a protein with a fiber source for maximum energy without the afternoon slump.
If away from home, pack quick and easy items like a cheese stick with a small apple, plain or low sugar Greek yogurt with berries, a small package of nuts, or hardboiled eggs and baby carrots. Grab one of these smart snacks to prevent feeling tired, foggy and craving that bag of chips or candy bar.
Make half your dinner plate veggies. Pick your favorite non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers or asparagus. Choose between sautéed, steamed or roasted. Or eat salad greens and raw veggies. You could also substitute carbohydrates like rice, pasta and potatoes with cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.
Try to eat the vegetables on the plate first as they will fill you up on fewer calories, Rosen said. This can also help to balance your blood sugar levels which will help minimize cravings for that evening bowl of ice cream.
Adequate and effective sleep is important for overall health. Many people might not realize how important sleep can be, Rosen said. Sleep helps control hunger, boosts energy for activity and exercise, and is instrumental in rebuilding psychological reserve, he said. Between seven and eight hours of sleep is recommended, but everyone is different for their own needs.
Sleeping too little or too much – or ineffective sleep (not achieving R.E.M sleep) – leads to issues in hunger, energy levels and tolerating stress and anxiety. To start, Rosen suggests trying to get 30 minutes more sleep every night.
About the Author
Kate Thayer, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care. She spent nearly two decades as a journalist, most recently as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. Throughout her career, Kate has written about public health, politics, government, education and legal issues, along with human interest stories. She enjoys running, podcasts and her twin daughters.