Health

Monday 28 July 2014

It's not too late for New Year resolutions

Lorraine Courtney: 'New Year's Day starts off full of remorse'. Photo: Thinkstock/Getty Images.
Lorraine Courtney: 'New Year's Day starts off full of remorse'. Photo: Thinkstock/Getty Images.

Question: I'M a bit late to the New Year's resolution table but I am determined to be healthier in 2014. I'm wary of drastic resolutions as I always break them. Are there any realistic changes that I will be able to maintain to improve my health?

Answer: THE New Year is a popular time for promising change but many of these resolutions fail before January is out. The key to long-term success is to have realistic and attainable goals with the willpower and determination to succeed.

Let's start with realistic, attainable goals. Many people say they will make sudden dramatic changes in their lives. They plan running marathons or aim to weigh less than nine stone. Running a marathon may be realistic for someone who is already fit but for someone whose idea of exercise has been changing TV channels this would be an unrealistic goal.

Willpower and determination are key to success in most things in life, and health is no different. Set short, intermediate and long-term goals. Resolve to exercise rather than run a marathon.

Aim to reduce your weight by one dress size initially then move from that. That way you will feel like you are succeeding rather than feeling guilty for failing along the way.

Reward yourself. Put aside the money saved when you quit cigarettes, buy less alcohol or walk instead of taking the bus and treat yourself instead.

Most importantly, take it one day at a time. Don't make a bad day a bad week, just get up and try again tomorrow.

With goals and determination in hand there are simple changes you can make.

Move more: Exercise is a word that evokes different reactions. For some the mere thought of formal exercise makes them sweat and they will avoid it at all costs. The simple fact is any movement is exercise.

This may be indeed involve going to the gym, running or walking purely to exercise and taking part in classes or sport. However, it also includes walking to get the bus or train, walking across a car park, climbing stairs, doing housework, dancing and doing DIY.

Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis by more than 80pc, it reduces the risk of hip fracture by just under 70pc, reduces the risk of diabetes and colon cancer by 50pc and the risk of stroke, heart attack, depression, dementia and early death by about 30pc. If that's not enough to get you off the couch, it also releases natural feel good hormones making you feel better.

A half-hour of moderate exercise is recommended on most days of the week. It can be split into shorter bursts so a 10-minute walk to and from the bus accompanied by 10 minutes of housework or DIY and you have hit the minimum recommended. Add in a half-hour dancing a couple of times a week and you are exceeding initial goals.

Eat less: Don't start a radical diet to get healthy or lose weight. They don't work and a diet implies something to start and stop. Healthy eating is for life. Eating the right food will not only reduce your risk of many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, various cancers and obesity, it will also improve your energy levels, can help improve sleep, and improve your general well-being.

The food pyramid is a good guide to healthy eating. Make a copy of one and tick off the sections you eat each day. Remember you don't have to eat the oils and fats at the top of the pyramid. By consuming oily fish and healthy dairy options further down the pyramid it is likely you will get the small amount of healthy fats you need. I would like to swap fruit and veg to the bottom of the pyramid as really we should eat five or more of these.

When it comes to anything on the pyramid be aware of portion size. People often eat the right food but way too much of it.

Quit smoking: One-in-two smokers will die of a smoking-related disease. Use a nicotine replacement or talk to your doctor about other aids if you are finding it hard to quit alone. Don't automatically consider e-cigarettes. There is a lot we don't know about these as they are not heavily studied.

Watch how much alcohol you drink: Many people start the New Year by quitting completely for January but going back to old ways from February on.

Rather than having periods of complete abstinence followed by big nights out, just keep drinking all year to less than 21 units weekly for men (that's 11 pints or two bottles of wine) or 14 units for women (seven pints, nine bottles beer or one-and-a-half bottles of wine).

Start cooking: Involve your children in this. Taking time to plan and prepare a meal will improve your diet and will also help teach your children about food and nutrition. By cooking at home you will be able to control the amount of sugar, salt and fat that you add to food therefore creating healthier options.

Don't be too hard on yourself if you fail: It is part of the process. Nobody's perfect and we can only try to do our best each day.

Irish Independent

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