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Rather than setting yourself wildly unrealistic challenges, knock those age-old new year’s resolutions down to size with these little boosts
ot eating between the hours of 7pm and 7am, sleeping for 10 hours, giving up carbs (an entire food group!)… These are just some of the nuggets of health ‘advice’ we’ve had pop into our in-boxes recently. But studies show that setting yourself outlandish goals leads to – you guessed it – failure. In fact, research by YouGov found that less than half of us managed to keep our new year’s resolutions for 2016. So, if you’re suffering from wellness overwhelm, take note of these ‘keep-it-real’ resolutions.
KEEP IT REAL Forget crash diets that promise lightning-fast results – they’re unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss. They’re difficult to maintain and may mean missing out on essential nutrients, leaving you low on energy. This can end up with you craving those high-fat, high-sugar foods you’re trying to avoid. Rapid weight loss can also cause gallstones, headaches and dizziness, among other problems. A recent study suggests consistency is key: it found that those who lost similar amounts of weight each week were likely to have shed more pounds after 24 months than those whose weight changes were more variable. ‘Losing 1-2lbs per week is a steady and realistic goal,’ says Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington. ‘Instead of an extreme calorie-cull, try starting a food diary and look at where you can make small changes. For example, swap your takeaway latte for a herbal tea, or opt for a handful of unsalted popcorn over that 4pm bag of crisps (popcorn is lower in fat and calories). I’d suggest aiming for one tweak a week, and building from there.’
KEEP IT REAL Slow down! Don’t try to do too much at once, as you’ll only end up becoming overwhelmed. Instead, why not schedule one health check-up a month – turn the page to find the key ones you might want to put on your to-do list. In the meantime, think about getting an NHS Health Check. It’s a free service (whoop!) available at your GP for people aged 40-74, and you’re eligible for one every five years. ‘An NHS Health Check will look at things like your blood pressure, and will include a blood test,’ explains Boots pharmacist Liz McPherson. ‘Based on the results, you’ll be given an idea of your chances of suffering a stroke or developing heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes.’
KEEP IT REAL You don’t need to go from couch to 10km in four weeks to get fitter. Gently does it. Why not try R.E.D January – it’s a month-long challenge to walk (or run) every day in aid of mental health charity Mind. The main aim is to raise awareness of mental health issues by showing what an amazing impact exercise can have on your noggin – shifting the focus from the distance you cover. It kicks off in January, and all sponsorship money raised will go to Mind. You could also join the ‘streak running’ movement: that’s running (or walking) at least a mile a day, every day. Perfect for forming the habit. We love MapMyWalk, an app that tracks everything from your route and pace to calories burned. And if you can persuade friends to get involved, it lets you share routes and encouraging words, too. Just what we need when motivation is low.
KEEP IT REAL Although one study found that people who ate more fruit and vegetables had a significantly lower risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, most experts still encourage the five-a-day rule. ‘Any more than five-a-day is great and certainly won’t do you any harm, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to achieve it,’ says Vicky. An easy way to up your count? Before you leave the house every morning, in addition to your usual phone-keys-purse check, remember one more thing: snacks. Popping a Tupperware box of carrot and celery sticks or berries in your handbag will introduce another serving. Or you could have a Boots Nutritious Fruit Platter*, £2/200 points (250g), for breakfast – it contains three of your five-a-day.
KEEP IT REAL Don’t punish yourself for not getting to bed really early every night – for most of us, it’s unachievable. First step? Try to be asleep by about 10.30pm, to get that vital 90-minute phase of shut-eye before midnight. The science behind it? We snooze in 90-minute cycles. The earlier in the night, the greater the propensity for deep sleep, whereas morning slumber tends to be lighter sleep. ‘If you usually go to bed at midnight, it might be unrealistic to say that tonight you’ll be in tucked up by 10.30pm,’ says Liz. ‘Your internal clock takes time to reset, so why not try to go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for a week and see how that goes? Then add another quarter of an hour the next week, until you get to your “target” bedtime.’ As ever, taking smaller steps to reach a bigger goal has more chance of success.
KEEP IT REAL While it’s a popular new year pursuit, the benefits of being booze-free for a whole month are yet to be fully evaluated. Some experts are concerned that it can do more harm than good. Rather than encouraging people to drink less beyond January and change the culture of binge drinking, there are worries that a month’s sobriety can make people believe they’ve done their bit for their liver and go back to hitting it hard on 1 February. ‘Cutting down long-term and having more alcohol-free days could be better for your health, and is probably more sustainable than going cold turkey for the whole of January,’ suggests Vicky. Remember: we shouldn’t have more than 14 units a week on a regular basis – the equivalent of six pints of 4% beer or six glasses (175ml) of 13% wine spread evenly throughout the week – and we should also keep a few days completely alcohol-free.
Genius things you can start doing now
HOP TO IT In a study, premenopausal women aged 25 to 50 who jumped as high as they could at least 10 times (with 30 seconds of rest in between), twice a day, significantly increased hip-bone mineral density after 16 weeks, compared with controls. Worth a try!**
MONITOR YOUR TICKER Boots Pharmaceuticals Advanced Blood Pressure Monitor With Atrial Fibrillation Alert†, £99.99/ 9,999 points, can help detect atrial fibrillation (an irregular or abnormally fast heart rate), which can put you at risk of a stroke.
SIZE MATTERS Most people are shocked when they learn the portion sizes for different types of food. Recommendations do vary, but as a guide, cheese should be a small matchbox-sized chunk, cereal about 3tbsp and for pasta it’s just 2tbsp (yes, really!).
We all have back-burner health niggles we never find time to tackle. But these checks score highly in the effort vs reward stakes, so lock them in your diary now
SET YOUR SIGHTS
Eye tests look after your peepers and can give an early indication of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and your diabetes risk. Most of us should have a test every two years – book at boots.com/eyetest.
You can get a free hearing check at Boots Hearingcare (bootshearingcare.com) – it takes just 15 minutes and indicates if you need a full hearing test, which is also a free appointment and takes about an hour.
PROTECT HOLIDAY HEALTH
Depending on where you’re jetting off to, remember that some vaccinations are needed 6-8 weeks before you travel. So if you’ve got an Easter holiday booked, now might be the time to work out what you need. Click here to find your nearest store offering the Travel Vaccinations And Health Advice Service††.
In association with Diabetes UK, Boots offers an online diabetes risk assessment. Click here to go to our online risk assessment where you’ll be asked a few simple questions to help assess your likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years. It should only take a few minutes to complete.
**If you have a medical condition, speak to a GP or healthcare professional before embarking on a new exercise regime.
†Available in selected stores only.
††Selected stores only; subject to eligibility and availability; charges apply.
Words Charlotte Grant-West Photography Getty Images, Shutterstock