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New Year, New You: 15 Tips for 2021

2020 was challenging on so many levels. Plans that were made at the beginning of the year were put on hold, if not ruined. Many set out last year to improve health and fitness. Fitness goals were met with challenges such as gym closures, schedule changes, and the convenience of ordering unhealthy food to the doorstep with a few taps in an app.

“Be healthier,” “Workout more,” and “Stop eating junk food” are goals that are all too common when starting a new year. Sadly, most will disappear come February, but why? And how will this year bring an added level of challenges?

One crucial mistake that Resolutioners make is that they bite off more than they can chew. We are creatures of habit, so to make lasting changes we need to address one at a time, or risk falling back into old routines. “Being healthier” needs to be broken down into smaller goals to ensure success and build a habit.

If being healthier in 2021 is your resolution, take one of these tips to begin and work it into your daily lifestyle. Once that has become a regular habit for you, then pick another one. By December, you will be able to look back and reflect on a year full of accomplishments.

1. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day will set your circadian rhythm so you can achieve optimal rest at night and have more energy during the day.

    More than you can chew? Start small. Add one extra hour each night every few weeks.

2. Embrace healthy snacking. Snacking throughout the day when hungry can help maintain a healthy metabolism and prevent binging when it comes to your next meal. Fill your home and workplace (for some of you this is one in the same) with healthy snacks such as nuts and vegetables.

3. Lift about 2-3 times per week. Total body resistance training decreases risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and bodily injury. It may also decrease effects of anxiety/depression, increase energy, and boost fat loss.

    No access to a gym? Buy some resistance band on Amazon and turn any space in your home into a workout area.

4. Meditate daily. Meditation can decrease the risk of heart disease, stress, and lower blood pressure. It can also increase energy and mental alertness.

    Don’t have the time? Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes for a
few minutes and focusing on things that you are thankful for.

5. Replace that nightly glass of wine with a cup of hot tea. The main draw to the glass of wine is to help you relax after a long, stressful day of work, right? Try a cup of hot herbal tea instead. Full of antioxidants, teas can lower risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Not to mention, cutting the daily calories from that glass of wine…

    Still love your wine? Red wine also contains antioxidants that may help prevent heart
disease. So, if you need that glass of wine, make sure it’s red.

6. Increase cardiovascular activity to a minimum of 150 minutes each week. Getting that heart pumping will keep it healthy and strong, which can lead to a long and happy life. This is a perfect time to get outside, get some fresh air along with some Vitamin-D from the sun.

    Wondering where you will find 150 minutes? Time is cumulative. Have a 20-minute
break at work? Go for a brisk walk. It all adds up.

7. Replace nightly TV watching with reading a good book. Your television gives off a blue light that affects your body’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep at night. Avoid TV at late hours and sleep soundly.

  Some smart phones such as iPhones have a night mode that gives a warm tint to your screen. You can find this setting in your phone under “Display & Brightness”

8. Pack a lunch to bring to work. It is harder to choose healthy options when surrounded by coworkers who order pizza and Chinese food on a regular basis. Packing a lunch will give you more control over what you eat and how much. Even if you’re working from home, meal prep your lunches for the week. It will be one less thing to worry about.

    Ran out of time to pack lunch? Offer to go pick up lunch for everyone instead of ordering
delivery. If you’re going to eat that General Tso’s chicken, you might as well burn some calories getting to it!

9. Use the weekend to do something you love. After a long week of hard work, you deserve the endorphins that your brain will release when you are doing something you enjoy. It will leave you energized and ready to tackle the week to come.

10. Try a new (online) group fitness class. Group fitness can be intimidating, but if you take the plunge into a new class you will likely find that surrounding yourself with others looking to improve themselves will motivate you to push that much harder. You’ll make new friends, improve your own fitness, and learn new moves at the same time.

11. Drink more water, with a goal of half of your bodyweight, in ounces, per day. For someone who weighs 150 lbs., that would be 75 oz. of water daily. In order for our bodies to function at an optimal level, hydration is key.

      Currently drinking a glass or two a day? Just increase your daily water intake by 5 ounces each week until you are comfortable meeting your needs.

12. Spend time with people who make you smile. Just the physical act of smiling releases neurotransmitters in the brain associated with happiness. These neurotransmitters have also been linked with decreased stress levels and lower blood pressure. So, surround yourself with those who make you SMILE!

13. Take an online cooking class. Eating at restaurants and ordering take-out may be convenient, but prices and portion sizes have become excessive. The use of heavy oils, creams, sugars may make a once healthy food into a thousand-calorie meal. Take control of what you put into your body by taking a class to learn new recipes.

     Not the best cook? Try meal making services, such as Blue Apron, that provide you with
all of the ingredients you need to make a delicious and healthy meal for the family.

14. Find your comfort zone and lift above it. In fitness, the overload principle shows that increases in fitness only occur when you push yourself beyond what feels comfortable. Usually do biceps curls with 15 lbs.? Try 17.5 lbs; you might surprise yourself.

15. Fill your plate with as many colors as possible. Different colors of fruits and vegetables provide different micronutrients, all of which are necessary for optimal health. Make it a point to include multiple different colors in each meal to boost your vitamin and mineral intake.

Vegetables not your favorite? Make your first goal to try a new vegetable each week.
Experiment and learn what you like. If you are not a fan of carrots, then you can still get the Vitamin A you need from a sweet potato.

Implement these changes to your lifestyle one step at a time, and make 2021 a better year.

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