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You can have this one on me - Resolutions for a more healthy new year

Happy festive winter season Free Living Fitness Fans! Wondering what to do to make your new year even more awesome and healthy? Start here!

I want to begin by looking at my countdown of the most important things we all need to be doing for good health and wellbeing - then we'll look at how you can fit this into your daily life for a better new year, and how to form lasting habits.

1. Sleep

Sleep is so unbelievably underrated in its importance for our wellbeing. If you aren't getting enough sleep you are chipping away at your life expectancy, intellect, and your ability to get through the day in a vaguely competent manner.

Sleep is your body's time to rest, heal and process your day. How much you need depends on a lot of factors, but it's worth using about 7 1/2 hours as a guide. So, decide when you need to get up, count the clock back 8 hours and make sure you are in bed, ready to settle down about that time. No phones or work in the bedroom, no procrastinating, just give yourself the recuperation you need. Try it just for a week and see how much better EVERYTHING is.

2. Exercise

I don't really like using the term "exercise" because it makes people think of gyms and running and being uncomfortable, and most people aren't so into that. So let's think about activity. To maintain your cardiovascular health, you don't need to work out hard, you just need to be active. The recommendation is for 30 minutes of moderate activity, 5 days a week. That could be walking or cycling to work, walking the dog, dancing around your kitchen, doing some dusting and vacuuming, just so long as you do at least 10 minutes of it at a time.

3. Hydration

Hydration is the only thing on this list that is more important than sleep. The WHO recommendation is 6-8 glasses of water, there's arguments about that, but it's the official guideline (my lovely PT tutor James has loads more on hydration on his blog here).

You don't have to drink water, you can drink other things like tea (herbal or otherwise), milk, juice etc. I'd advise avoiding sugary drinks like sodas because they are a very easy way to consume a lot of sugar and calories without noticing. I personally also prefer not to think of things like fruit juice and smoothies as "drinks" but as snacks (again because they make it very easy to tip the sugar and calories out), but from a strictly hydration point of view, they do count.

I find it really easy to forget about drinking, even though it's actually really easy to hit the target if I keep on it. A glass of hot water and lemon on waking, a drink with every meal or snack, and at least a glass after daily exercise.

4. Eat your greens

Loads of fruit and veg. Lovely. Hands up who knows they should be eating at least 5 portions a day? Hands up who does this every day?

It's easy to lose track but eating a wide range of colourful fruit and vegetables every day has a tonne of health benefits.

Eating well starts with shopping well, so start a new habit of checking out some of the different stuff on offer in your local shops. I love going to the farmer's market and seeing what's fresh, seasonal and looking good. Invest in a good veg cookbook to tell you what to do with weird stuff you might not have met before. When the food is in your house, it's easier to eat it!

5. Clear your mind

Stress, like lack of sleep, is one of those sneaky things that insidiously chips away at your well being, so let's get on top of that.

There's all kinds of things that can help with stress, from exercise (covered that) to knitting. You just have to find out what works for you and fit it into your day.

For a quick fix, 10 minutes of mindfullness meditation a day will sort you right out. But you can try a bubble bath, colouring, keeping a journal... anything that helps you defrag your brain drives for the day. The key is to be regular and consistent.

The only warning I would give you here is to make sure your de-stressing activity is actually helping you clear your mind, not simply distracting you so you put of thinking about the things that bother you. Making a conscious (mindful) decision not to engage with stressful thought patterns is great, sticking your head in the sand just lets it build up.

The grand plan

So here's the skinny:

Sleep: Set an alarm to remind you when it's time for bed. And go, just do it.
Exercise: Build it into your schedule or for the times when you get to the end of the day and think "oh, I've been at my desk all day", maybe have a bit of an exercise DVD on standby.
Hydration: Make a habit of drinking a glass of water or clear fluid (like tea) with every meal and snack.
Vegetables: Book a weekly veg shop and try something different every week. Try to include a portion with every meal or snack, 2 with your main meal.
Stress: Do 10 minutes of your de-stressing activity every day.

You will probably notice that these are all daily things. I think it is much easier and more achievable to set goals that can be achieved every day, with a clean slate every day. Focus on the process and the result will take care of itself.

There's lots of ways you could track this, to-do lists, phone apps, journalling, make yourself a star chart and stick it on the fridge if that helps. Keep at it and you'll be feeling better every day.

Looking for a whole new plan for the New Year? Why not check out my online PT options. You can go for full blown training, or if you are feeling confident, an exercise plan to help you make the most of your training time for better gains!


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