Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

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Living healthy in the new year

Living healthy in the new year

By Anthony Deldin, PhD, CSCS, XPS
Assistant Professor, Exercise Science, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

The New Year has arrived—and with it comes the pressure to make resolutions that focus on improving one’s physical and mental health. This is a great time to work on healthy lifestyle habits that you can bring with you in to the New Year.

  1. Get some sleep

    For students and faculty, it’s easy to fall into a weird sleeping schedule because of studying or grading until the crack of dawn. Getting back in sync with your body’s natural sleep cycle is one of the most important tactics for attaining good sleep. While you might have gotten used to staying up late while on vacation, it’s crucial to set regular bedtimes and try to wake up at similar times each day. This will not just improve your sleep cycle, allowing you to feel more refreshed, but will make the transition into the spring semester much smoother.

  2. Get back on track with exercise

    As the temperatures stay near zero, it can be difficult to find the energy to get out there and stay active. Try using this break to begin a resistance training program. Lifting weights through a progressive exercise program is one of the best methods to increase muscle hypertrophy, improve bone density, and decrease body fat. You can begin with as little as one day a week but try to increase to exercising three to five days a week.

    If resistance training does not interest you, go for a run, take a spin class, or join a local kickboxing gym. There are plenty of options, and the most important thing is to find an exercise routine you enjoy and can stick to.

  3. Eat well

    Starting healthy eating habits might seem challenging, but there are simple ways to find balance that don’t require an “all or nothing” approach. Try eating plenty of lean protein and vegetables throughout the day. Ideally consume between 0.5-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. There are also plenty of vegetarian/vegan options, such as non-dairy milk, quinoa, and an assortment of beans, that can help you meet your protein requirements.

    Splurging on favorite desserts or treats isn’t the end of the world, just keep portion control in mind. If you’re going out to eat or to a party, it is important to eat healthier food earlier in the day. Eating less throughout the day in anticipation of overeating later is likely to increase your appetite, causing you to consume more than you thought you would at night.

  4. Practice for stress reduction methods

    Travel, new classes, and starting new routines can all be quite stressful this time of year. Take time early in the year to find methods of stress relief that work best for you. Maybe sign up for a yoga class at your local gym. Learn some new breathing exercises or meditation techniques. Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and body relax and focus.

    Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of stress management techniques that can bring relief quickly and, if practiced regularly, last a long time. Almost all of them can be started right now, be done anytime, and require little or no investment.

    A new year is a chance for you to begin new healthy lifestyle habits that you can help a new and healthy you thrive physically and mentally throughout the entire year.