In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 5, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions for the Easily Discouraged

By In the Loop

Realistic goals for setting resolutions. January. The month that for many of us brings distressing post-holiday news from weight scales, guilt-inspired resolutions, new gym memberships, and, by month's end, a sinking feeling that we're losing more inertia than pounds. Even though workout plans tell you to start slowly, and diet plans (at least the legitimate ones) tell you not to expect immediate results, we often have unrealistic goals when it comes to resolution setting. So we here at In the Loop set about searching for advice on achievable goals to encourage those of us with a predilection for giving up easy. 

Resolution 1: Get moving.

We found inspiration in the headline "A Shockingly Small Amount of Running Can Boost Your Health," accompanied by the teaser, "Just a wee jog can go a long way." The article pointed to a Mayo Clinic study that showed "running for about 50 minutes each week" (about six miles, according to the study) can reduce your risk for "stroke, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even some cancers." Edward Laskowski, M.D., a Mayo Clinic sports medicine specialist, tells the Mayo Clinic News Network, "If you get out there and get moving, you're going to benefit your body." (He even encourages moderation).

If even a shockingly small amount of running doesn't gain traction with you, try a wee bit of walking. A Mayo Clinic article on "Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health" advises "realistic goals" and does the math for us. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults aim for "two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity." The article suggests "at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day" and notes that if you can't set aside a half an hour to walk, try "two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions throughout the day." (Well if you put it that way.)

Resolution 2: Fidget

"The next time someone tells you to 'stop fidgeting,' tell them that it could make you happier, healthier and more successful," Mayo's James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., tells the Arizona Republic. "Fidgeting can burn up to 350 calories a day and can increase your metabolism as much as 40 percent." He's talking about "active fidgeting" — such as pacing while on the phone and bouncing your legs up and down while sitting. "Active fidgeting at work or home may also help protect our bodies from heart attack or stroke," he says. It also may reduce your risk for metabolic diseases.

Resolution 3: Add Color to Your Diet

Dietary recommendations can be daunting, but there are some simple things you can do to make your body happy that are easy on the eyes. A story on the Mayo Clinic News Network offers this advice for a healthier diet: Add color to your diet by adding fruits and vegetables. The American Cancer Society suggests eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day to reduce cancer risk, among other benefits. Kay Yost, a Mayo Clinic Health System dietitian, suggests colorful produce, such as dark green vegetables (think spinach and kale), deep yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (like oranges and sweet potatoes), and red, blue, purple and white fruits and vegetables (berries and cauliflower). Their antioxidants and phytochemicals help your body fight cancer and other diseases, and add color to your palette. (And palate.)

Resolution 4: Nap

This is a resolution we can get behind. "Napping isn't just for children," says an article on Mayo's website, adding, "If you're sleep deprived or just looking for a way to relax, you might be thinking about taking a nap." (Yes. Yes we are.) Napping offers various benefits such as relaxation, reduced fatigue, increased alertness, improved mood, improved performance, quicker reaction time and better memory. To get the most out of naps: keep 'em short, take them in the afternoon, and create a restful environment. (We'll be right back.)

Resolution 5: Chill

This may seem obvious, but some forms of relaxation are better than others. Mayo's Amit Sood, M.D., tells Today Health and Wellness that he meditates as a way to relax. "I cultivate habits that relax the mind," he says. "For example, when I wake up, I think about five people I am grateful for before I start my day." Meditation, he says, can be "relaxing, health improving, brain enhancing, and free of side effects." But it's not easy, so he offers some tips in his video "Meditation 2.0: A New Way to Meditate." If the idea of meditating stresses you out, try other relaxation techniques, such as visualization or progressive muscle relaxation. If that still doesn't seem sufficiently chill, see Resolution 4.

Sleep on it if you must, but tell us how you're taking on 2016 by sharing your comments below. Then, resolve to use the handy social media tools to share this story with others.

Tags: Dr Edward Laskowski, Dr James Levine, Dr. Amit Sood, Kay Yost, Uncategorized

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