IN BALANCE — Resolutions for a Healthier Lifestyle: Incremental, Not Radical

January 3, 2019

By Lisa Gibson

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your holidays were joyous and filled with the love of family and friends.

For many, a new year offers an opportunity for a fresh start. According to a poll by data firm YouGov, two of the top three intended New Year resolutions for 2018 were — drum roll, please — get more exercise and eat healthier. Save money was the third.

The next most popular was focus on self care.

What this means in practical terms is that there will be a huge influx of new gym memberships by those with the best intentions of working out three days a week, at least an hour each time.

Determined to eat healthier, pantries will be cleaned out and diet books bought with the goal of cooking all one’s own meals and instantly becoming healthier with more energy and possibly six pack abs.

Unfortunately, within five months of making a resolution, at most, and frequently within six weeks, 80 percent of people who join a gym quit going. Given that on average an annual gym membership is $500, that’s a healthy chunk of change down the tubes.

Diets don’t fare much better, according to the Daily Mail. A research study commissioned by Splenda shows that most women stick to a diet for five weeks. 

So, am I advocating that instead of a resolution, you lie on the couch and binge watch your favorite Netflix series through 2019 while eating corn chips? Heck, no! Kudos to you for wanting to make healthier choices!

What I am saying is make gradual changes and therefore make them more achievable. One of the reasons that radical changes don’t work is because they are radical changes! We can maintain them for a while, but as time passes, they are not sustainable.

The main recommendation that I make is to increase movement/physical activity. Note that I am not saying exercise! According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the greatest health benefits accrue from switching from a state of status (sitting at your desk, lying on the couch) to an activity, even just small amounts. The steepest reduction in disease risk occurs with the lowest levels of physical activity.

JAMA’s new guidelines provide evidence that even small amounts of activity (such as climbing a flight of stairs) are beneficial and that the key point is that large health benefits accrue from even small amounts of physical activity.

What is the takeaway? Introduce changes gradually. Instead of trying to carve an hour out of your day to go to the gym, figure out how to add more walking, especially outdoors, to your day. Start by walking down the stairs at your office and then add walking up. Or start by adding 10 minutes of movement to your day and then increase it, when you can.

Look for opportunities to walk instead of driving. Once you are moving consistently, then maybe it’s time to look into a gym membership or some other activity that you love.

Personally, my cardio work is swimming and ballroom dancing. Why? Because I enjoy them and we are far more likely to stick to an activity that we enjoy than the one we think we should be doing! 

Remember that health benefits come from moving: start there, start realistically, and build up. 

Here’s to you moving more and more fluidly in 2019!

Lisa Gibson is a 500 Hour Certified Pilates Instructor through Active IQ UK, Certified Pilates for Neuromuscular Disorder Specialist, Pilates Matwork certified through PhysicalMind Institute Santa Fe, a presenter for SCW Fitness an ACE, AFFA, AEA certified instructor, and owner of Tranquilitybodyworks. She can be reached at tranquilbodywork@icloud.com.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care.

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