Each year, most often at the start of the new year, we vow to lose weight, quit smoking, eat smarter, and exercise more. These are among the prerequisites to better health and lower risk for heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, lung cancer, and other maladies.
And every year, researchers at the University of Scranton say, about 80% of us break those vows by mid-February.
There is a better way to set and achieve those healthy goals, say health experts like Colleen Gavin, Kaitlyn Miele, and Gina McDonald from Capital Blue Cross.
Gavin, a certified exercise physiologist and health and wellness coach at the Capital Blue Cross Connect health and wellness center in Center Valley, Lehigh County, preaches “SMART goals: Smart. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-bound.”
Losing 40 or 50 pounds is a great long-term goal, Gavin said, but think of it in terms of achieving short-term goals along the way. “Short-term goals may include eating three vegetables a day, or exercising three times a week, or reducing calories each day,” Gavin explained.
“Instead of saying, ‘I want to lose 100 pounds,’ set a goal to lose 10 pounds and achieve that,” said Kaitlyn Miele, a registered and licensed dietitian and nutritionist Capital Blue Cross. “You’ll be more motivated and confident to set a goal to lose another 10 pounds.”
Patience and consistency are vital, said McDonald, a senior health coach, certified trainer, and American College of Sports Medicine-certified exercise physiologist. “If you set a goal to exercise, make it something small and daily to accomplish. Make that feel like a routine, then progress. … Actually, make a plan and evaluate it. If something is not working, change it. Don’t give up on it.”
Health experts are well aware of the hurdles to success. The two most popular refrains are, “I’m too busy,” and “I’m too tired.”
”Everyone has time to exercise,” Gavin said. “It only takes 15-30 minutes to get a heart-pumping, fat-burning, and muscle-building workout done each day. Think about the amount of screen time you have per day. Try and reduce your screen time and add in a short workout.”
Another strategy, Gavin said, is to start earlier. “Complete your workout first thing in the day so that it is done and nothing else can get in the way,” Gavin suggested.
As for being too tired, Gavin says, “you are too tired not to workout. Exercise gives you more energy and improves cognitive function, sleep habits, and productivity.”
The average American will spend about 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, but there are ways to squeeze exercise into the average workday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes a resource on its website called “Physical Activity Breaks for the Workplace.” Gavin said it is an excellent guide for mini-exercises and stretches that can be accomplished in short, 2-3 minute bursts throughout the workday.
There are options for those working at home too, Gavin said. “Using household items to exercise is a great idea. Soup cans for arm exercises, counters or stairs for modified push-ups, chairs for stretching and modified squats. I would definitely recommend people get creative and use items in their house to workout especially with all the time we spend at home.”