Five Resolutions to Improve Your Health

A retired couple takes a walk through the park to improve their health.
A retired couple takes a walk through the park to improve their health.

At the beginning of every year, people begin to think about New Year's resolutions. Some of us include in our resolutions promises to eat right, exercise more and lose weight. College of Health Sciences (CHS) professors, Lori Neighbors, Ph.D., R.D., (Human Movement Sciences) and Scott Strath, Ph.D., (Human Movement Sciences), suggest that people start 2010 with making new choices for improved overall health.

Resolutions should really take the form of real solutions. "There is no 'magic bullet' when it comes to weight management," said Neighbors. "People need to think about planning better, shopping smarter and eating healthier. Instead of going on the newest 'diet,' I prefer that people consider adopting a few simple lifestyle changes."

Rediscover the family meal (preferably at the table, not in the car)

"We live extremely busy lives and don't spend as much time in the kitchen anymore," said Neighbors. "Unfortunately, meals and snacks based on food prepared and consumed away from home often contain more calories, fat, and saturated fat than food prepared at home." Thankfully, the bookstore shelves and the Internet are full of quick and healthy recipes that can be incorporated into even the busiest family's day. She also recommends getting the whole family involved in meal preparation. "It may be a little messier depending on the age of your 'helpers', but you'll have fun doing it!" Another tip is to spend some time on Sundays to plan the meals for the week. "Consider even going a step further and preparing and refrigerating or freezing a meal or two. This can be a great solution for those weekly lunches or dinners-on-the-go."

Stick to the periphery of the grocery store and don't shop when hungry

One great trick to bringing home a shopping cart full of healthy eating options is to do the majority of your shopping on the periphery of the grocery store. She said, "Think about it - this is generally where all the fresh foods are (e.g., fruits and vegetables). This tip will be easier to adopt when you are not walking around the store on an empty stomach. In most instances, growling hunger pains lead us straight to the unhealthy food choices in the grocery store."

Downsize your plate

Try using salad plates or eight-inch plates instead of large dinner plates at mealtimes. "A four-ounce portion of lean chicken or fish looks like a nice-sized serving on an eight-inch plate, but looks akin to a meager appetizer on a 12-inch plate," pointed out Neighbors. "Over time, you'll begin to reorient your eyes and your stomach to smaller portion sizes and still come away from the table feeling satisfied."

Strath, an expert in the areas pf physical activity and public health, stated "physical activity-whether it's walking the dog or just taking the stairs at work - is essential to good health. The benefits of an active lifestyle add up: improved cholesterol, overall physical fitness, reduced body fat and lower levels of stress and depression." He offered a few simple tips:

Move it or lose it

"You don't have to join a health club to get the benefits of physical activity," said Strath. "Whenever possible, walk. Just 30 minutes a day, five or more days a week will help you make walking a natural part of your life. Call a friend and start exploring your neighborhood on foot - and remember that you don't have to do the whole 30 minutes at once - try breaking it up into three 10 minute walks spread throughout the day."

Make walking a part of your life

"Here are some easy tips that don't mean you have to set aside extra time for walking," said Strath. "Walk to your friend's house rather than drive and if you have to drive to a destination, park three blocks away to get in a little more activity. Try taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Give your dog an extra 10 minutes on its walk. Set a goal of walking for 10 minutes prior to eating your lunch every day."

Following a few simple (and realistic) guidelines will go far to help everyone keep their resolutions and see the results.

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