Google searches for the word ‘gym’ will see a sudden spike and membership purchases to health clubs will soar  as millions of guilt-ridden Americans flock — at least temporarily —to their local fitness center this month. But what’s also true is that interest in gyms will plummet after just a few weeks. So while a New Year’s resolution to lose weight is great, think about making a broader resolution to have a healthier year instead. Here are some tips to help.
1. Get a complete picture of your health status
Much like getting a car tune up, your body also needs a general check-up every once in awhile. Different from a well-woman exam (which we discuss below) other age-related health check-ups are a good idea to schedule too. Consider if you’re up to date on the following tests:
- Pap smear
- Annual physical (to look at measures of health such as blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol)
- Colorectal cancer screening
Now is the time to also take stock and think about other areas where you need extra help:
- Stop smoking
- Diet & nutrition / weight gain
- And if you’re planning to start a family, a pre-pregnancy check-up
2. Diet and nutrition
To get healthier this year, diet and nutrition are going to be at the top of your list. Here are small changes you can make right now to improve your nutritional health:
- Reduce the amount of salt you cook with. Use herbs and spices to season food instead.
- Cut down on the amount of processed foods you consume. Try to eat homemade meals more often
- Add more lean meats (chicken, turkey) and fish to your diet. Substitute them for red meats like beef and pork
- Cut down on the amount of fizzy drinks and soda you consume
3. Exercise. But start slowly
After the holidays the New Year’s resolutionist’s head to gyms en masse. With good intentions, they hit the treadmill, exercise bikes and ellipticals. But for many who have not exercised before or who haven’t exercised in a long time, injury can soon follow. The best thing to do is to start off slowly. If you’re coming at this with absolutely no recent exercise under your belt then increase your basic fitness by doing some walking, light jogging or swimming -anything to get your muscles used to moving again. After a few weeks increase the intensity and only when you’re ready, hit the gym.
Stay on top of your health and schedule your well-woman exam today. During this exam your doctor will carry out a pelvic and breast examination, both of which can help detect problems before they start. A well-woman exam is also a good time to catch up with your doctor about any problems that you may be experiencing with your periods, menopause or contraception.
5. Get at least seven hours of sleep a night
According to a report released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over a third of adults are not getting 7 hours of sleep a night. It’s not easy trying to fit in a regular 7-hour sleep schedule into an already busy day but try and get as close to this number as possible.
Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes .
6. Give yourself time to relax
It has been a busy few weeks and now that everything is back to normal, stress might start to creep in. January is usually described as one of the most depressing months of the year and as bills roll in, gray weather settles and the holiday cheer is gone, it’s easy to see why stress can come calling. We suggest a few tips to help combat it:
- Stay active
- Engage in the hobbies that you enjoy
- Connect with others and stay social
- Pick up activities like yoga or meditation
Taking steps towards healthier living is not always easy and you’ll probably run into some hurdles along the way. But stay the course and use some of the tips above to help you along the way. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy new year!
1) Washington post. What your new gym doesn’t want you to know. Ana Swanson. January 2016
2) 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. enters of Disease Control and Prevention: News room. Page last reviewed: February 16, 2016