Written by Dorothy Perelman BASc, Candidate
Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD
It’s the beginning of a New Year and for many of us, it is the time we write down our fitness or health goals for the upcoming year – perhaps knowing that many of these goals may not be achieved. I’ve been there. I spend hours creating a long list of new year’s resolutions, only to “blow it” on the 5th day into the new year and tell myself “this isn’t my year”. If this happens to you, I am here to tell you that 2020 is your year! I am going to give you the four goals- that’s right only four, that you can set for this new year. To make it easier, I will tell you why these specific goals are important and what you can do to reach them. So, keep reading to make 2020 your healthiest and best year yet!
Goal 1: Move more, sit less
Most people know that exercise and physical activity are good for us, yet only approximately 40% of children and youth between the ages of 5 and 17 and 16% of adults aged 18-79 meet the recommended targets for physical activity. We all know people who don’t exercise and maintain their weight. So why exercise in the first place? Because it is about so much more than weight! Regular physical activity increases your cardiorespiratory fitness by increasing your ability for your body to take in more oxygen. Daily physical activity also decreases circulating fat, maintains muscle mass and may prevent more than 25 diseases including cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, colon and breast cancer, and type II Diabetes. Exercise is also known to improve brain function by releasing a memory aiding protein from contracting skeletal muscle. In addition, physical activity can help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms by increasing the body’s sensitivity to serotonin. On the other hand, being sedentary activity can disrupt metabolism and result in an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, state that children and teenagers should aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Adults, including seniors should be active for at least 150 minutes per week.
Here are some ways you can incorporate more movement into your routine:
- Create a workout plan, one that incorporates strength training 2-3x/week, flexibility at least once per week and some form of cardio 3-4x/week.
- Try to stand up and stretch at least once every hour. Maybe even get some steps in! You can set a timer for one hour, or an alarm at the end of an hour reminding you to move
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car a little farther, and try to walk rather than drive
- Try to schedule in a walk/ day and even invite a friend!
Goal 2: Drink more water
For many people, go-to beverages are often coffee, tea, juice, soft drinks or sports beverages. During exams, I may have up to 6 cups of coffee in one day! I just love the taste and smell of coffee! Simply holding a Starbucks cup makes my heart happy. And to be honest, there is nothing wrong with drinking a coffee or latte here and there (I admit six is a bit too much though) but coffee or other beverages should not replace water. Water transports nutrients throughout the body and aids in excreting waste. Water also aids in maintain body temperature and acts as a lubricant and shock absorber for muscles. You need approximately 30ml/kg of water/day. How can you start drinking more water? I’m glad you asked.
- carry a water bottle with you wherever you go, even around the house.
- Drink water when you wake up.
- Try to drink 500ml of water by 11:am, 2L by 4pm etc…
- Set a reminder on your phone to drink.
- Apps to remind you to drink water are also helpful!
- Make water your primary beverage. Aim to decrease your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Goal 3: Prioritize sleep
Please tell me I am not the only one who stays up finishing assignments or binge watching the latest tv show until 3 am. All this Netflix and lack of sleep really has a negative impact on my body, both inside and out. Poor sleep is associated with lower quality of life, increased risk of mortality and weight gain. Research shows that sleep restriction has also resulted in impaired learning and memory performance in early adolescence. Health Canada recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for those aged 18-64 and 7-8 hours of sleep for those aged 65+.
To improve your sleep, try to:
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bed
- Maintain a consistent sleep routine
- Reduce noise in your bedroom
- Exercise regularly
- Read or colour in bed, any activity that doesn’t involve electronic devices (that’s right, no instagram in bed)
- Charge phone and computer in another room
Goal 4: Reduce sugar intake
Ok I know this is a hard one, probably the hardest one if you’re a sugar lover like me. It is important to draw a distinction between types of sugar- natural and added. Aim to decrease intake of added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. One study found that a diet higher in added sugars can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation. Excess consumption of sugar may also contribute to hypertension and weight gain.
Use these tips to help reduce your intake of added sugar:
- Read package food labels. Limit foods that list ingredients such as: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, syrup sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose).
- Choose snacks including fresh or dried fruit
- Choose more whole foods and fewer processed and packaged foods
This year, focus on increasing movement, sleeping enough, drinking water and reducing added sugar. Happy 2020 everyone! Share your thoughts and your goals for a healthy 2020.