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The resetting of the calendar is an inspirational time of year to set out to tackle new health goals, but it’s easy to get too enthusiastic with unrealistic aims. A New Year’s resolution you can keep in general will be specific, realistic and measurable—something you can achieve with some effort but without too much sacrifice.
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That said, setting goals you can achieve requires some thought and preparation. Not sure how to fine-tune your aim to “eat healthier” or “exercise more”? Check out these attainable health and fitness New Year’s resolutions in the upcoming year.
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1. Add movement minutes at a time
One of the more common fitness resolutions people make is to move more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for physical activity suggest that adults exercise at moderate intensity for 150 minutes a week and strength-train at least twice a week. But if that sounds like a big jump from where you are in your fitness journey, start setting realistic goals with whatever feels comfortable. Try going on a 10-minute walk sometime each day or being active for 30 minutes one or two days a week to start. Once you get comfortable with your new exercise routine, you can increase with an additional 5 or 10 minutes to your existing sessions or another day to your routine.
2. Meditate for 5 minutes every day
A meditation practice has a host of health benefits, from reducing stress to winding down for bed, and is overall a great way to take a timeout for your own wellbeing. Research suggests you can experience the benefits of meditation even if you only reflect for a few minutes a day—though you’ll have to commit to the habit long-term.
We think Headspace is the best meditation app for making mindfulness a habit, thanks to its wide array of sessions, including both grounding midday classes and ultra relaxing nighttime meditations to lull you to sleep. Headspace also lets you easily adjust the length of your sessions, from 3 to 20 minutes, making it a great choice for anyone who may want to work their way up to longer meditations.
While not a meditation app, we also recommend Noom Mood for beginners wanting to learn more about mental wellness. Noom Mood works by giving users short articles to read, stress management techniques to practice and access to a personal wellness coach to guide you through it all. Our tester learned a lot about emotional wellbeing using Noom’s psychological approach and discovered helpful de-stressing exercises.
3. Eat three balanced meals a day
Step up your nutrition in the new year—rather than cutting out foods or food groups in the name of losing weight—and aim to eat three balanced meals a day as a more sustainable lifestyle change. The healthy eating plate from Harvard University’s School of Public Health recommends filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit (the more variety, the better), a quarter with protein (like from fish, poultry, beans or nuts), and a quarter with whole grains (from bread, pasta, oats, quinoa and corn). The plate also includes a water glass for proper hydration and a spot to include healthy fats, such as olive oil.
A free food tracking app like Cronometer can help you learn more about portion sizing to fill your plate with adequate servings of fats, proteins, and carbs. (Note: You should steer clear of calorie-counting apps if you have a history of disordered eating and instead seek professional guidance for nutritional needs.)
4. Try a new exercise every week (or month)
To shake things up and feel excited for exercise, consider the goal of adding one new workout every week (or month, if weekly feels like too much). This could mean you try a new modality—maybe by picking up a weighted hula hoop—or checking out a new class with your workout buddy at the gym or a studio in your area.
If you’re not sure what you want to try, consider checking out ClassPass, which offers access to fitness studios in many cities via a month-to-month membership. The variety can keep you from getting bored and you may find a few new ways to move that you love.
Those who enjoy exercising at home may want to consider virtual fitness programs. For an app that offers a multitude of workout classes all in one place, check out Nike Training Club. As the best workout app we’ve tested, users can follow along with fun videos of high quality yoga, HIIT, pilates and more—for free.
5. Run a 5K
Signing up for a race is one way to give yourself some outside motivation, and a 5K—3.1 miles—is a challenging but not too ambitious goal for those who are new to running. The popular app Couch to 5K (C25K) takes you from novice to race-ready in nine weeks.
6. Drink incrementally more water per day
You may know the importance of proper hydration, but do you know how much water you should drink per day? While there’s no universal number, experts recommend women drink up to 92 fluid ounces, or 11½ cups, of water per day and men drink 124 fluid ounces, or 15½ cups.
If you know you’re not hitting that but the idea of consuming what amounts to a gallon a day leaves you feeling water-logged, start smaller by adding a water bottle you look forward to using to your daily repertoire. We recommend the Brita stainless steel filtering water bottle. Its built-in filter keeps your water tasty, no matter where you refill, and the insulation will keep your sips ice-cold.
If forgetting to refill is your biggest issue, get a large bottle you only have to top up once a day—this can also serve as a way to measure your baseline and challenge yourself to increase your intake. The Fidus one-gallon water bottle has time stamps on the side with encouraging notes to inspire you to hit each marker throughout the day and is a great way to stay motivated and track your progress.
7. Set a step goal
Good ole walking is a great exercise for your physical and mental health and fitness. Setting a step goal can motivate you to move, and it doesn’t have to be as high as 10,000 steps for you to see results. One way to create a walking goal is with a fitness tracker. Before changing your exercise habits, wear the tracker around for a week to determine your baseline daily step count. Bumping that up by 10% weekly is an achievable way to experience more of the benefits of walking without feeling intimidated.
For a fitness tracker that makes it easy to monitor your activity levels, check out the Fitbit Charge 5. This tracker automatically counts your steps, sends you reminders to move, and lets you record workouts right from your wrist using built-in GPS for outdoor activities.
8. Try a new food once a week
Whether you’re just looking to be more adventurous in the kitchen or focused on weight loss, changing up your eating habits by trying new foods can be a great goal. Eating new foods can help you achieve a balanced diet and, if you enjoy cooking, can keep you from getting bored with preparing the same meals.
You can try a new vegetable, grain or protein once a week; use a new ingredient or spice while cooking; or find a new recipe that prepares foods you know you enjoy in new ways. The variety in meals can help you stay inspired to try new foods for the entire year and have fun with your resolution.
One extra-fun way to do it: Try a meal-kit delivery service. Our favorite option for those who want to eat more veggies is Sunbasket. Though not strictly a vegetarian service, the meals are produce-rich for those who need the inspiration, ingredients and instruction to cook healthier.
9. Go to sleep at the same time every night
One reason many adults don’t get enough sleep is because they don’t have a consistent bedtime routine. Going to bed at roughly the same time every night—and waking up at a consistent time in the morning—will keep your circadian rhythm on track, helping you fall asleep and wake up more easily.
But bumping up your bedtime from 1 A.M. to 9 P.M. is a huge—and arguably, unrealistic—feat that may lead to frustration and difficulty falling asleep at night. Start small by adjusting your bedtime by half an hour each night and give yourself several days or more to adjust to your new schedule before moving it earlier.
10. Do a single pull-up (or increase your reps)
For those who love hitting the weight room, shooting for a new personal record is one way to push yourself. Performing a pull-up—or increasing the number you can do in a set—is a great challenge to conquer in the new year. (You could also sub any other specific exercise as the goal if you prefer.)
How long it will take to accomplish your first pull-up will depend on your current level of strength. To prepare, you’ll want to spend time developing your back, shoulder, and core strength with exercises like lat pull-downs and rows. Most gyms have an assisted pull-up machine you can use to build up the specific strength for the real deal, but you can also use a large resistance band like the well-reviewed WODFitters Pull Up Assistance Bands to support some of your body weight while working on the coordination of the movement.
Bring it to the gym with you, or invest in your own pull-up bar for use at home. The Iron Gym Pull-Up Bar cantilevers from the molding above a door frame, requiring no tools or holes in the woodwork to install.
11. Stop using your phone before bed
You’ve heard it before: Putting your electronics away before bed will help you sleep better. The blue light from screens can impact your circadian rhythm and melatonin production, and doom-scrolling on social media certainly isn’t going to help you doze off to peaceful dreams.
Still, leaving your electronics outside the bedroom is an ambitious goal for most. If you’re not quite there yet, aim for just staying off your devices for an hour before bed and taking advantage of your phone’s night settings, which reduce the emitted blue light.
12. Spend one night a week doing something that makes you happy
Self-care looks different for everybody—it could be giving yourself a facial, treating yourself to takeout or tidying your bedroom. At its core, it means taking time for yourself and doing something that makes you feel good.
Making a resolution to spend one night a week indulging in a self-care activity is a great way to keep yourself relaxed and happy, be it with a sudsy bubble bath using our favorite bath bombs from LifeAround2Angels, or our best-tested foot massager, the Renpho heated foot massager.
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: 12 healthy New Year health resolutions you can actually keep