Is a healthy lifestyle one of your New Year’s resolutions?

This year, make a New Year’s resolution toward a healthy lifestyle and stick to it. Your options include eating well, cutting stress and getting enough sleep.

If this whole concept of a New Year's resolution is new to you, then here's a quick summary. A New Year’s resolution is a promise that comes into effect once a new year starts and, in theory, should last the length of the year. This resolution can come in different forms and there are no set of rules as to what can and cannot constitute as a New Year’s resolution. What’s noticed, though, is that people tend to make resolutions for the better. Usual examples include: starting regular exercise, eating healthy, cutting down on stress, quitting smoking, drinking moderately, getting enough rest, and generally living a healthy lifestyle.

Why do people make New Year’s resolutions?

People commonly make New Year’s resolutions hoping that the new year will bring positive changes to their lives. Therefore, we perceive this as a great time to bring about changes on the personal front. The new year also offers people a clean slate, so to speak, allowing them to start from scratch.

The idea of bettering oneself is an important motivator when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions. Given that most people wish to improve themselves in some way, shape or form, many view the new year as a day that gives them the opportunity to get started. With a date in mind, people have time to prepare and boost themselves up morally.

Making a resolution, whether on New Year’s or otherwise, helps individuals get closer to their goals. One study even showed that only 4% of subjects who wanted to achieve specific goals succeeded without making a resolution, whereas more than 45% of the test subjects who made resolutions, succeeded.

How to develop and stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Each year. A significant number of people make New Year’s resolutions that have to do with improving fitness levels or overall health. However, the fact still remains that many of these individuals do not see their resolutions through. Don't think you're better than this, it might happen with your resolution, too. But what's important to avoiding this is to develop a suitable resolution, with a realistic goal, and to stick with it. Also, following these few simple measures might increase the possibility of success.

Get support. Many times people who make fitness resolutions tend to go at it alone. This can lead to disappointment because changing bad habits is not easy. It's best that you get the right kind of advice when embarking upon a new fitness regimen and that you should also consider working with a partner. Fitness goals are easier to achieve when you work towards them in the company of someone, and as a result, you increase your chances to sticking to your New Year’s resolution. Support can also come from family members and friends, which can be achieved if you share your goals with them.

Know what you’re doing. When you get on the path to bettering your health, make sure you know what you’re doing. This is in regards to the exercise regimen you follow as well as your diet. Try to collect as much information as possible, and if required, seek professional assistance. Do not set unrealistic goals as doing so decreases the possibility of success. Make an actual note of your goals and make sure they are detailed and specific. Once you start making notes, you will know what you have to do.

Exercise. Exercising is a fairly common New Year’s resolution - and with good reason. Exercising, when done right, has a positive affect not just on physical health, but on mental wellbeing, as well. Exercising can help you lose weight and/or bulk up. It can improve your stamina and can even help you manage stress better. Besides, if you choose to exercise with your family, you also get some extra family time in as well.

Physical activity. While it's good to dedicate time for exercise every day, you can also remain active throughout the day. You can choose to walk short distances instead of taking your car or a cab, and you can stick to taking stairs as opposed to elevators. Help with chores around the home even if it means pulling yourself away from the idiot box.

Strength training. Strength training involves exercising and building muscle. It also results in improved metabolism, stronger bones, and increased energy levels. While most forms of strength training rely on some form of equipment, you can find strength training programs that don't need any equipment as they rely on body weight instead. Including as little as 20 minutes of strength training into your everyday can be beneficial and help burn calories faster.

If you want to buy a fitness-related product to get started these items require your attention:

Celsius 10kg Dipped Dumbbell Set

Celsius 10kg Dipped Dumbbell Set from rebel Sport

This dumbbell set is a great addition to any home gym or workout routine plus it has a convenient plastic carry case that can store your weights when they are not in use and also good for travelling.

View details
Sting VX2 Vixen Training Gloves

Sting VX2 Vixen Training Gloves from rebel Sport

These gloves feature a full leather palm for protection, comfort and durability.

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Reebok 5KG Medicine Ball

Reebok 5KG Medicine Ball from rebel Sport

This medicine ball is made from natural rubber and can be used for explosive movements like throwing, abdominal workouts and rehabilitation.

View details

Eating healthy

In addressing overall fitness and wellbeing, one should combine exercising with a healthy diet. Yes, this involves keeping AWAY from unhealthy foods. Eating well comes with a number of benefits, such as increased fitness levels, a healthier appearance, and the idea that you're setting a good example for family and friends alike.

What is eating healthy?

Eating healthy isn't just limited to eating foods that have a nutritional benefit, it also involves controlling your portion sizes. It comes as a surprise to many but fact remains that plate size has a direct effect on weight. Sticking to smaller plates and bowls promotes weight loss. It should also be noted that you should ensure that your diet does not lack any vital nutrients, fat included.

Something to avoid however is an excessive amounts of sodium (salt), which is difficult to avoid owing to its presence in processed foods. Sodium can lead to water retention which, in turn, leads to bloating and can increase blood pressure.

Increasing your intake of antioxidants can help the body fight free radicals, which are substances that lead to conditions like heart disease and cancer. Examples of antioxidants include beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants, and you can also find them in chocolate, tea, and coffee, too.

Cutting stress

Cutting down on stress is definitely a healthy New Year’s resolution, given that chronic stress can lead to conditions like insomnia, obesity, depression and heart disease. Factors that play roles in increasing stress include lack of sleep, poor diet, extended work hours, inadequate physical activity, and not having enough personal time.

While stress is a part of everyone’s lives, the trick is to ensure that it doesn't become overbearing. You can achieve this by getting enough sleep, meeting friends and family, reading, listening to music, and going on holidays.

If you intend to minimise stress, self awareness also helps, as does setting boundaries and establishing accountability. Self awareness comes in the form of you realising how much sleep and exercise you need. It also includes knowing what kind of food you like to eat, how you prefer to spend your spare time, and so on. Setting boundaries involves saying no after a certain point, and this can mean not staying up at work late, or not staying out late on weekdays. Establishing accountability with personal goals increases the likelihood of achieving them, and a simple way to do this is to write down what you wish to accomplish.

Quitting smoking

Some researchers believe that nicotine is more addictive than heroin and cocaine, so kicking a smoking habit can't be a bad thing. Besides, smoking affects more than your lungs, it also has an adverse effect on the brain, heart, and even the skin. A resolution to quit smoking is not an easy one to keep given that smoking is highly addictive, however this does not mean a smoker cannot quit.

A number of smokers try quitting multiple times before they actually succeed - so anyone who is wary of previous failed attempts should know that quitting is possible. And guess what? Quitting smoking not only makes you healthier, it also saves you a lot of money.

Once you make a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, it's important you let others know. This makes you accountable, and you can also look forward to support. Talking to a healthcare professional can give you an insight into any external support that you can get to quit smoking. This can be through support groups as well as some form of nicotine replacement therapy.

While a number of people who know of the risks associated with smoking continue to smoke, people who make resolutions to end it tend to be more successful when they seek professional help. Consider this: while only 3-5% of people who resolve to quit without seeking external support succeed, this figure goes up to 15-20% in cases when external support is in place.

Drinking moderately

While drinking in moderation comes with its share of benefits, overdoing it comes with its share of pitfalls. Chronic drinking can lead to liver and heart disease, and can also cause strokes, hypertension, some cancers, and mental deterioration. When it comes to drinking regularly, men should ideally limit their intake to three to four units of alcohol, which is roughly about a pint and a half of regular beer. Women, on the other hand, should drink no more than two to three units. While this is ideal, what’s alarming is that instances of binge drinking appear to be increasing.

The benefits of drinking in moderation include:

  • It helps you keep your weight in check.
  • It can help in reducing stress.
  • It improves your sleeping patterns.
  • It keeps you in control.
  • Minimises health risks associated with excessive intake of alcohol.

What can you do?

There are various measures that you can follow to ensure that you drink in moderation. Amongst the first thing you should do is start saying 'no' to rounds, because drinking in rounds tends to involve drinking faster than usual. If you’re ordering cocktails, find out just how much alcohol they contain. Try to spread your drinks through the course of a night, and you can even space them with juices or soft drinks. Keep drinking water as it keeps you hydrated. Lastly, don’t hesitate to buy expensive drinks - you’ll know what they taste like, and you won’t drink much.

Catching some zzzs

Not getting enough sleep translates into an unhealthy habit, and if your New Year’s resolution is to get enough sleep, you’re on the right track. After all, sleep not only works in alleviating mood, it plays a role in your appearance, and has many other benefits as well.

Findings from studies show that irregular sleep patterns and not getting enough sleep can lead to obesity. Obesity, in turn, can lead to heart and kidney disease. Getting enough sleep, on the other hand, can help you maintain a healthy weight. Lack of sleep can also lead to type-2 diabetes. Another benefit of getting adequate sleep is strengthening memories through a process called consolidation.

An adult should get between 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and it's best when this sleep is undisturbed. Sticking to a New Year’s resolution of getting enough sleep, luckily, is not very difficult.

Simple measures like making sure you go to bed by a fixed time, keeping light out through the use of thick curtains, and investing in new bedding can go a long way in delivering the sleep you require.

If you’re making a New Year’s resolution, seeking support definitely increases the likelihood of success and if you know someone who’s made a New Year’s resolution, do your best to help in any way possible. Remember that taking care of your health now is important if you wish to stay fit later in life. Finally, keep in mind that there’s always an aspect of you that you can change for the better. Healthy lifestyle related or otherwise.

Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is the travel editor at finder.com.au. On top of being an avid traveller, she's an all-round bargain hunter. If there's a deal on hotels or a sale on flights, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too. Though probably not before she buys her own ticket.

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