My New Year's resolution is to exercise — consistently. So far, so good. The latest research shows that regular physical activity may be "the best preventative drug" for many health problems.
Studies show that exercise reduces the risk of early death, helps control weight and lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, some types of cancer, cognitive decline and hip fractures. It can help improve sleep, memory, concentration and mood.
Physical activity is a mental and emotional game-changer, yet despite all the great things we get from exercise, not many of us stick to a plan to actually do it. The government's activity guidelines advise getting at least 2 1/2 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging. They also recommend that adults do muscle-strengthening activities such as pushups, situps and lifting weights.
So we know all the benefits. The key is not letting life get in the way of doing it. I've found it comes down to a plan. Think about consistency, rather than results. We'll be more likely to stick to our New Year's resolutions if we establish realistic and achievable goals.
Too many people try to do too much too fast and set unattainable goals, which simply sets them up for failure, according to Luis Manzo, executive director of student wellness and assessment at St. John's University in New York.
"There is no sense in making a resolution to wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and run five miles if you know you are not a morning person and you have never run more than a mile in your life. Such a goal will just demoralize you when you are unable to stick to it," he said in a university news release.
"Rather, play to your strengths, select goals that you can do and that work for you," Manzo said. "Maybe a more realistic goal is running after work for 20 minutes two days during the week and once on the weekend for 25 minutes. Start small, build your confidence and your motivation will skyrocket."
He offered a number of other suggestions to help you stick with our resolutions, including:
Set aside time each day to work on your goals. For example, if you want to exercise, put it in your calendar. Be sure to factor in the time you need to get to the gym, shower and get dressed.
Make your resolution part of your routine. The more you do this, the easier it will be to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to connect more with family and friends, make it a habit to call them on a certain night of the week.
Write your goals down and make them public. This will make you more accountable.
Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your goals. Or you can set goals with a friend so that you can encourage each other. For example, if you plan to write a book, find a friend who has the same goal and agree to share your progress and give each other feedback once a week.
Q and A
Q: How much nutrition do I lose by using frozen spinach instead of fresh?
A: Spinach is a powerhouse food containing vitamins and minerals and is a rich source of phytochemicals such as carotenoids and flavonoids. In general, the nutrients and other protective compounds in spinach are similar whether you use fresh and frozen. But compared to the frozen form, freshly harvested spinach provides more folate, a B vitamin that some studies have found may prevent heart disease according to the American Heart Association. However, a study at Pennsylvania State University shows that when fresh spinach sits in a truck for transportation over long distances, or sits in your refrigerator for a week, folate content drops so much that frozen spinach becomes the better source. Freezing spinach does not seem to mean any loss in beta-carotene content. Frozen spinach is terrific to keep on hand for an easy nutrient boost in soups and sauces. For other uses, cook spinach (fresh or frozen) by steaming, microwaving, stir-frying or sauteing to retain folate and vitamin C. Boiling spinach in a pot of water can cut these vitamins' content in half. When using frozen spinach, you can reduce vitamin C losses by cooking it directly from the freezer without thawing it first. However, to add frozen spinach to a casserole or pasta dish such as lasagna, your dish may turn out best if you do first thaw it (using the microwave makes it quick and easy), then place in a sieve or colander and use a large spoon to squeeze out the excess water. By squeezing this water in a bowl, you can refrigerate it and save to add to soup or pasta sauce, thus avoiding loss of vitamin C or other water-soluble nutrients.
Information courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Looking for a good morning boost? These Coconut-Carrot Morning Glory muffins, from Eating Well magazine, can be a quick breakfast or snack. Add a nonfat latte or glass of juice and your morning will be off to a healthy start. Coconut oil is near other cooking oils in supermarkets.
Coconut-Carrot Morning Glory Muffins
1 cup whole-wheat or white whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted if necessary
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Whisk whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and allspice in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, applesauce, honey and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk in coconut oil. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in carrots, 1/2 cup coconut and raisins. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons each oats and coconut. Bake the muffins until they spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.
Per muffin :186 Calories; 4 g protein, 28 g carbohdyrate, 8 g Fat; 3 g fiber; 206 mg Sodium
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian from Springfield, Ill. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.