Lake Norman Magazine

Health: 31 steps to a better you

Yoga Instructor Karen Mejia teaches a Yoga class at the New United Home  Care in Doral on December 2, 2010.
Yoga Instructor Karen Mejia teaches a Yoga class at the New United Home Care in Doral on December 2, 2010. C.M. GUERRERO

The new year brings a chance to start anew. Here, you'll find 31 ways to reach your healthiest year yet. Keep up each day's efforts as you move forward, to fortify your good health efforts every day, all year long.

January 1Reflect. Purchase a notebook to help you track your progress. Today, answer these questions: Why would you like to be healthier this year? What does healthier look like to you? Why is it the right time for you to begin? By considering the answer to these questions, you set yourself up for success.

January 2 Take a 30-minute walk. Regular walking yields weight loss, reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, lowers cholesterol, increases bone strength, lowers stress and improves circulation.

January 3 Eat breakfast. It gets your metabolism going and reduces the chance of overeating later. By starting your day off right, you’re more likely to stick to a sensible lunch and dinner and smaller morning and afternoon snacks.

January 4Sleep eight hours. Getting enough sleep has been proven to ward off everything from colds and flu to cardiovascular disease and obesity.

January 5Get educated. Visit http://www.health.gov/DietaryGuidelines to learn what recommendations the Department of Health and Human Services has for your health. Take notes in your notebook and pay particular attention to advice you specifically need.

January 6Ask the boss. Check with your employer about what is offered to support employees in attaining healthier lifestyles. From contests to discounts, pedometers to education, employers are getting on board with helping their workforce be healthier than ever.

January 7Take notes. Begin tracking your progress in your wellbeing journal. Note your meals, snacks, water intake, exercise, and sleep habits daily. In addition, record how much fiber, sugar, and sodium you intake, what time you are eating, and where. Read the labels on all food and use the USDA Nutrient Laboratory website (www.nal.usda.gov) to help with your tracking.

January 8Join. Check out your local fitness centers to see what deals they’re running for memberships. Worried about stretching your budget? Consider the YMCA’s financial assistance program.

January 9Make plans. Plan your meals for the week, your workouts, and other things you want to do daily for your self-care. Write your plans in your calendar and treat them like non-negotiable appointments.

January 10 Celebrate Meatless Monday. According to the Mayo Clinic, vegetarians generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have lower cholesterol levels. Even occasional meatless days can positively affect health – so go vegetarian today.

January 11 Hydrate. The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume thirteen cups and women consume nine cups of total beverages a day. While the morning cup of Joe is essential for some of us, make water your only other drink of choice today.

January 12Lift. Visit www.mayoclinic.com for insight on how to start a weight-training program.

January 13Build your core. When we weight-lift, we often concentrate on our arms and legs. Today, research core stability on www.mayoclinic.com and begin to build strength in your abdomen and lower back.

January 14Stretch. Stretching helps your body recover as you build strength and endurance. The Mayo Clinic offers a stretching slideshow. Or try a yoga DVD, or a class.

January 15Reflect and plan. In your wellness journal, reflect on what you are doing well and what has been a challenge. What are you most proud of accomplishing? Why has this journey been worth it? Next, plan your workouts and meals for next week.

January 16 Hold the sugar. You’ve been paying attention to your sugar intake for ten days. Inclined to add too much sugar to coffee, dessert, or even oatmeal (in the form of cinnamon sugar)? Stop. Deliberately control your intake today.

January 17 It’s Meatless Monday again. Today, make sure that each meal features at least three colors.

January 18Hold the salt. Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advise healthy adults not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Today, learn more about sodium, where it hides and its impact on the Mayo Clinic website (www.mayoclinic.com).

January 19 Tweak your unhealthiest habit. What is the absolute worst thing you do each day? Today, cut back or cut it out entirely and see how it feels to being to break that habit. At the end of the day, in your wellness journal, plan what you can do tomorrow to continue to work on breaking the habit.

January 20Get more fiber. Fiber reduces the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and constipation. The average American eats only 15 grams a day, but men should eat at least 30 grams a day and women should get at least 20 grams a day. Look at your fiber intake and nudge it up by a few grams every day until you reach your recommended daily amount.

January 21Change your cardio. Your body has probably gotten used to the cardio you’ve been doing. Today, take a new course, add more distance, or add 30-second jogs at regular intervals to your workout.

January 22Unplug. We know technology, specifically texting, can be a health risk when it comes to driving and even interrupting sleep, but it seems technology is linked to other unhealthy behaviors, too. A study by the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine links “hypertexting” (sending more than 120 texts a day) and “hypernetworking” (spending three or more hours on social network sites a day) with poor health behavior like alcohol use, early sexual onset and multiple partners, smoking, using drugs and fighting in teenagers. For today, have your family take a day off from technology to enjoy the outdoors and focused family meals.

January 23Go unprocessed. So much of our diets are based on highly processed foods, which can expose us to too much sodium, sugar, and fats and lead to significant health consequences. Today, have a completely unprocessed day. Need advice? Visit www.100daysofrealfood.com, written by Charlotte mom Lisa Leake.

January 24 Go meatless and make plans. It’s Monday again. Go vegetarian and plan your meals, snacks, and workouts for the week.

January 25 Make all your regular yearly health appointments for the whole family. By scheduling dental cleanings, physicals, mammograms, eye appointments and any other necessary screenings now, you are making health a priority.

January 26Go fish. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and most Americans get much less than the daily recommend dose. Up your dose today by eating salmon, walnuts, kale, broccoli, and flaxseed and learn more by visiting www.heart.org. January 27 De-stress. Stress has a significant impact on our overall health. In your wellbeing journal, consider what stresses you out, how you respond to stress, and what you can do to better handle the stress you are under and then put your action plan into place.

January 28 Move more. You’ve been deliberately exercising for weeks. Now, put more motion in your everyday life. If you sit at a desk every day, get up, walk and stretch every hour. Pace when you are on the phone. Do calf raises or crunches while watching TV. Figure out how you can be in motion more of the time.

January 29 Reflect. In your wellness journal, consider the changes you have made over the last month and the benefits you have reaped. Now, look forward and make wellness goals that can take you through the year.

January 30 Make plans. Write out your meals and workouts for the week.

January 31Be adventurous. You’ve been trying vegetarian for several Mondays now. Today, try a fruit and vegetable you’ve never tried before or that you rarely eat.

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