New Year, new you? To make sure your plan is achievable, APD health and wellness experts share their thoughts to help you succeed.
One: Choose your area of wellness.
There are several areas you could tackle: emotional, financial, physical, occupational, social. One activity might work best for a particular area — such as taking a certification class to help you feel more confident at work — while other activities may overlap: meditation, for example, might impact both emotional and physical wellness.
Two: Start slowly for sustainability.
Exercise or diet changes are important to leading a healthy life, but keep your goals realistic.
“Always make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. For instance, if you’re trying to eat healthier, start by making sure to get two servings of vegetables (1-2 cups at least) every day. If you want to exercise more, use a step counter and try walking 1,000 more steps than you usually do,” said Tracey Hull, MS, RD, registered dietician at APD. “These may seem like small changes, but that’s how you make them sustainable.”
Rice Haunstrup, RN, health and wellness coach at APD, recommends setting an attainable goal, like walking more, to start.
“Walking is easy to do, gets you out in the fresh air, and you can start slow. If I am coaching someone, I encourage them to set a low, very attainable goal to start,” Rice said. “I often have grand ideas and, when I fall short, I feel like ‘Forget it, I can’t do this.’ Starting slow and building up is much more likely to stick than trying to do 10,000 steps right away.”
Three: Add steps to your day.
“You can fit steps in literally everywhere. You can make it a challenge, trying to consistently get a certain amount every day and then increasing it each week or month,” Tracey said. “You also can look for opportunities like taking the stairs, parking further away, walking to talk to someone instead of calling them, or taking a walk on your break instead of scrolling on your phone.”
Rice uses her FitBit and sets her goal to 5,000 steps a day. “I only get to walk at lunch and some days I am at my desk more than others. I would rather reach my goal than overset it and not reach it on many days,” she said. “Start by setting an easy goal like walking once around the building.”
Four: Add a social support to your exercise.
Find a walking buddy. Not only will you have someone to keep you motivated and/or accountable, you’ll also be exercising your brain with conversation.
Five: Eat foods that make you feel better.
Trendy diets abound: South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, The Zone Diet, intermittent fasting, macro tracking, to name a few. Before you make a change, check with your primary care provider to review any health conditions you may have, medications you may be taking, and the diet you are considering.
“Everyone is different, so identifying specific foods or ways of eating that make you feel good rather than following trends will lead to success in the long run,” Tracey said. “Overall, having a balanced diet — including plenty of whole foods, vegetables, and variety — while minimizing fried foods and added sugar will help most people feel more energized.”
Six: Stay hydrated.
Drinking plenty of water can help with your energy levels. “If you’re not getting enough hydration throughout the day, it can really impact your energy,” Tracey said. “Of course, if you find yourself exhausted every day, speak to your doctor to identify any medical reason that may be zapping your energy.”
Seven: Gradually add new exercise goals.
Rice recommends adding interval training, alternating slow and fast walking, to your workout. Megan Rae, contract specialist in Finance at APD suggests adding weights to your walk.
“After walking for a while, I wanted to add a little upper body work, so I added wrist weights and some while-walking exercises to my morning routine,” Megan said.
If you’ve been sedentary for a while, walking may be enough exercise to start. If you usually go to the gym, try getting outside into nature for some exercise.
“I appreciate getting out and being in the fresh air, seeing the sun during the winter, and taking a break from work,” Rice said. “It is a way to move my body and clear my mind; recharge to go back and finish the day.”