The New Year brings the resolutions that we know we are just going to break. The most common one is lose weight. An admirable goal considering 60% of Americans are overweight and over 40% are obese (HHS, 2017). However, your weight is not an indicator of good health. These behaviors will yield a far better return on investment!
Movement. Most Americans spend 6-8 hours per day sitting (Yang et al., 2019). When we include sleep, this means most people spend about 50 years not moving! The weekly recommendation for physical activity is 150 minutes of movement. Do you watch 1-2 hours of TV? Then you can find 21 minutes to go for a walk, stretch, garden, or do anything. Being sedentary is the number one cause of ALL non-communicable diseases, and because it increases inflammation and impairs our immune system it increases our risk of communicable diseases like the flu and COVID-19 (Lee et al., 2012). Get off your ass and move!
Reduce Stress. Stress is a killer. It increases blood pressure, inflammation, anger, anxiety, depression, impulsivity, isolation, body fat, and fatigue (Salleh, 2008). Unwind during the day with deep breaths, meditation, walking, reading, or listening to calming music. You know what to do you just need to do it. Short periods of quiet breathing can weaken the connection between our mind and our fight or flight response, repairs damage, and increases our overall wellbeing (Steinhubl et al., 2015).
Hydrate. Average Americans are chronically dehydrated and fail to meet minimum recommendations thus increasing the risk of mood disorders, chronic fatigue, and altered hunger. We often think we are hungry and are really just thirsty! The Mayo Clinic recommends 3.7L for men and 2.7-3L for women per day (based on biological sex) (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020). However, the average person drinks only 1 liter of water per day. Don’t like drinking water? That’s ok, flavored drinks with low amounts of sugar and milk are acceptable substitutes!
Sleep. Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health. Sleep allows our body to repair and restore itself, reduce oxidative stress, and form and store memories. Individuals with disordered sleep are more prone to mental illness and disease (Baglioni et al., 2016). 6-8 hours of sleep per night remains the gold standard. While sleeping less than 6 hours increases the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. Turn off devices, turn down lights, reduce caffeine, nicotine, and sugar, and make your bedroom peaceful, get sunlight, and exercise. If you need help melatonin and chamomile are great.
It’s not about how much we weigh but how we live. Better choices create better lives. Take baby steps and make little improvements where you can! Make a decision, not a resolution and follow it with action.
Baglioni, C., Nanovska, S., Regen, W., Spiegelhalder, K., Feige, B., Nissen, C., Reynolds, C., Riemann, D. (2016). Sleep and mental disorders: A meta-analysis of polysomnographic research. Psychological Bulletin, 142(9).
Health and Human Services. (2017, January 26). Facts & statistics: Physical activity. https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html
Lee, I. M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group (2012). Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: An analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet, 380(9838), 219–229.
Salleh, M. R. (2008). Life event, stress and illness. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences : MJMS, 15(4), 9–18.
Steinhubl, S. R., Wineinger, N. E., Patel, S., Boeldt, D. L., Mackellar, G., Porter, V., Redmond, J. T., Muse, E. D., Nicholson, L., Chopra, D., & Topol, E. J. (2015). Cardiovascular and nervous system changes during meditation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 145.
Yang, L., Cao, C., Kantor, E., Nguyen, L., Zheng, X., Park, Y., Giovannucci, E., Matthews, C., Colditz, G., & Cao, Y. (2019). Trends in sedentary behavior among the US population, 2001-2016. JAMA, 321(16), 1587.