Setting Healthy Goals

Once again we are at the start of a new year; a time when many of us make New Year’s resolutions and “start anew” in our lives.  As we make these resolutions, or goals to better our lives in the upcoming year, we need to ensure that we will be successful.
CDC Employees Exercising

On the CNN Health website, visitors were asked, “What are you resolving for 2010?”  The available responses broke down as:
     Diet – 21%
     Exercise – 45%
     Cut stress – 34%

Although not a scientific poll, it allowed some interesting analysis.  I thought that diet would have topped the list but respondents placed it third.

We are surrounded by information in the media about the importance of exercise in a healthy lifestyle.  This time of year there is no shortage of infomercials selling us gadgets to get and stay in shape.  You can check out healthy exercise guidelines and suggestions, “Be Physically Active in the New Year”,  from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I attribute the second place position of “Cut Stress” to the current uncertainties in the economy.  While we may not be able to affect the state of the economy, we can take time to manage our stress.  One of the easiest stress reduction techniques is meditation and breathing exercises.   Remember to breathe from the diaphragm and to take full breaths.

Eating healthy on a budget is affordable and easy.  Just keep in mind that eating off a dollar menu – for you and your family – may have long term health consequences.  There are many free web sites you can view that provide shopping tips and recipes.  Please make sure that the site is reputable.  As always, remember to talk to your doctor or others on your health care team if you have questions.

Whatever goals you chose for the coming year – hopefully these goals will become healthy habits – remember to keep them S-M-A-R-T: Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Timely.

Specific – A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal. A goal might be to lose 20 pounds, rather than to just “lose weight.”

Measurable – Make sure you can measure your progress.  If you want to lose 20 pounds, have a system to measure your progress, target dates, etc.

Attainable – Have a realistic goal such as to lose 10 to 20 pounds.  Breaking your goals into increments will help ensure success.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “A weight loss of 5 to 7 percent of body weight may improve your health and quality of life, and it may prevent weight-related health problems, like type 2 diabetes. For a person who weighs 200 pounds, this means losing 10 to 14 pounds.”

Realistic – A high goal may provide greater motivation than a low one, but make sure that your goal is realistic.

Timely – If you want to exercise/ lose weight /reduce stress this year you should set a timeframe to achieve your goal(s).

This year, my goals include:

Learn specific cooking techniques – I’ve signed up for a series of free classes at a cookware store.

Learn to jump rope – I will do this by the end of the semester as part of the Aerobic Wellness course I’m teaching

Continue my education on health and wellness – since this permeates everything I do, I intentionally have not set an end date.  As always, my goal is to find the best information for my family and friends, my students, and myself.

Happy New Year and good health to each of you.

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