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Real-life resolutions for a healthier 2012

Every month, a health expert from Women's College Hospital answers a question about a health issue that's in the news or on women's minds. This month: health resolutions that make a difference.

January 2012

Health resolutions are easy to make, but some are hard to keep. Resolutions that are too vague (I want to have a healthier lifestyle) or too unrealistic (I want to have six-pack abs by Valentine’s Day) are almost impossible to stick to.

Women’s Health Matters asked Dr. Danielle Martin, a family physician with the Women’s College Hospital Family Practice Health Centre, for some realistic resolutions that can make a real difference for a healthier 2012. Here are her top three:

1.       Stop smoking

If there’s one thing you can do to make a big difference in your health, this is it.
“The biggest health gift you can give yourself is to stop smoking if you smoke,” Dr. Martin says. “There are lots of ways your doctor can help. You don’t have to do it alone – there are tons of supports out there,” she adds. “But you have to take that first step and let your doctor know that you’re committed.”

2.       Add positive changes

Try to incorporate small changes into your day that help build a healthier lifestyle. “It’s easier to add things than to take things away,” Dr. Martin advises. So look for things that you can add, rather than things to stop, remove or ban. An example that can make a big difference is to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet.

“It can be as simple as deciding to eat blueberries every morning, or to add a fresh salad to dinner in the evening,” Dr. Martin says. These types of small changes that you can reasonably sustain over time are not only more realistic, but more effective than banning food items such as dessert, chips or chocolate. Eventually, you may find yourself reaching for an apple instead of a doughnut. “Over time, those things come to replace some of the less healthy food choices, but the first step is to add healthy choices,” Dr. Martin says.

3.       Build movement into your day

Similarly, small changes can improve your fitness level. Many people aren’t ready to make a major commitment like joining a gym, but they can find simpler ways to be more active.

“Try to incorporate movement into your day,” Dr. Martin suggests. A simple way to do this is to get off the subway one stop early on your way to and from work, or park 15 minutes away from the office. Taking a brisk 10- to 15-minute walk on your way to and from work may be an easier way to get some exercise into your day than packing a gym bag and heading to the weight room.

“Going to the gym is great. If you’re motivated and willing to make a big change, that’s great,” Dr. Martin says. “But small changes can add up to a big difference.”

Think about ways to get moving during family or weekend activities. It doesn’t have to be regimented, and doesn’t require treadmills or equipment. “Moving, walking, playing, being outside – everything counts, as long as it gets your heart rate up,” Dr. Martin says.

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