The start of a new year is a great opportunity to focus on committing to healthier choices and habits.
But what is the best way to ensure those resolutions stick?
Before you sign up for gym memberships and cut out your favorite foods, said Dr. Elbert Xu, primary care physician with Intermountain Health, first prioritize planning. Setting goals is the most important part of any plan to become healthier, he said.
“People don’t plan to fail, but they fail to plan,” said Xu, who cares for patients at Intermountain’s new Horizon myGeneration Senior Clinic, 771 E. Horizon Drive, #140, Henderson, NV 89015. “We are very good at making a ‘New Year’s resolution’ regarding health, but the ideas we have to get there are often unrealistic – thus, unachievable.”
Dr. Xu suggests identifying a purpose beyond a competition with friends or sharing updates on social media. He said goals can be tied to personal celebrations and achievements shared with family and friends who support the efforts.
For example, he said, a grandparent inspired by the thought of seeing grandchildren graduating from college down the road decides to make choices to positively impact his or her health to enhance longevity and overall well-being.
“We are more motivated when we live for more than just ourselves,” Xu said.
Being healthier isn’t as simple as making a decision to exercise more or eat healthier. It takes a concerted effort to identify how to begin those activities by mapping out the steps to make it sustainable.
Healthier nutritional choices
Improving one’s nutrition choices is a fairly common goal – and an easy pathway to reaching one’s weight goals, Xu said, adding that it’s easier when one eats foods they like – just in moderation, and adjusting recipes to include healthier options. All of it, however, is for naught if there is no clear-cut purpose behind the reason why someone wants to eat better.
“Again, the ‘how’ is a lot easier after the ‘why’ is figured out,” Xu said. “People need to know why they want to eat better first.”
Building an exercise routine
Fully understanding why you are setting new exercise and workout goals will help you achieve them, Xu said.
“Knowing why an exercise routine is vital and then coming up with a realistic plan with an achievable goal is key,” Xu said.
Xu recommends starting slowly if someone hasn’t worked out regularly before. Consulting with one’s physician is also an important consideration before beginning a new exercise routine. Starting out with walking is a great way to kick off your goals, and then transitioning to a short 15-minute run or lifting light weights can be the next step. He also added that consistency is better.
“It’s better to run 15 to 20 minutes a day five to six times a week than one to two 60-minute sessions a week,” Xu said.
As with nutrition, Xu stressed the importance of having a why to achieving this goal. He recommends seeking an accountability partner to help with just getting to the gym or working out more frequently.
“Accountability is very important,” Xu said.
Aside from the day-to-day maintenance, Xu said that everyone should see their primary care provider at least once a year, and if you do not have one, the new year is a great time to establish a relationship with one. Visit IntermountainNV.org to schedule a new patient appointment. Your new provider can help you set up an individual plan for how to be a healthier you in the new year!
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.