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Make 'SMART' resolutions this New Year

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Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012 11:40 pm

FAIRBANKS — Several studies have shown the vast majority of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail to achieve them, and in some cases, feel even worse about themselves than they did before making the resolution as a result of that failure.

Even so, at the strike of midnight every year on Dec. 31, millions of people around the world insist on challenging themselves to better their lives in some way, shape or form.

If there is one New Year’s resolution people should make and stick to, according to Dr. Corrine Leistikow at the Tanana Valley Clinic in Fairbanks, it is this — exercise more. By doing so, people can achieve multiple resolutions toward living a healthier life, she said.

“Exercise helps you lose weight, exercise helps with diabetes, exercise lowers your blood pressure, exercise helps people with depression or seasonal affective disorder, exercise helps with anxiety, exercise helps your cholesterol numbers, exercise makes you smarter,” Leistikow said, rattling off a list of benefits. “If you’re only going to do one thing, move more.”

Leistikow, 53, practices what she preaches. She skis daily in the winter and is an avid biker in the summer. She recommends getting a pedometer to keep track of how many steps you take each day. The recommended number of steps is 10,000 per day, which is hard to do if you’re not a mailman, Leistikow said.

“If I don’t exercise, I’m not getting 10,000 steps a day in and that includes walking the dog a half mile,” she said.

When it comes to making healthy New Year’s resolutions, Tiffany Ricci, a dietitian at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, said they should be “SMART” ones.

“Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely,” Ricci said, referring to the acronym.

The more specific the resolution, the better the chances of pulling it off, she said.

“There’s a big difference between saying, ‘I’m going to lose weight’ and saying, ‘I’m going to lose five pounds by March 1,’” Ricci said.

Likewise, it’s important to be realistic in making New Year’s resolutions.

“If you haven’t been exercising, the sheer notion of going out and doing something for an hour a day is not realistic,” Ricci said. “Try starting out at 10 minutes a day.”

Similarly, if one of your resolutions is to eat more home-cooked meals, don’t expect the transition from restaurant table to kitchen table to be an easy one.

“If you’re not cooking at home now, it’s not realistic to think  you’re going to be cooking at home seven days a week, but if you start packing your lunch one day a week, that’s one day a week you’re not eating out.”

The key to following through on a New Year’s resolution, whether it’s drinking eight glasses of water per day or eating five servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day, is to do it often enough that it becomes a habit, both Ricci and Leistikow said. That usually takes between four and six weeks.

“If you can stick with it that long, your body gets used to it,” Leistikow said.

Another technique to increase success in following through with New Year’s resolutions is to look at the next year as a series of 12 different resolutions, one for each month, she said. For example, you could resolve to start drinking eight glasses of water per day in January and eating five servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day in February.

“You’ll be more successful if you’re working on something for 30 days rather than 365 days,” Ricci said.

One of the most common healthy New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, but how you go about trying to do so often determines whether or not you will be successful, Cheryl Warwick, director of fitness and group fitness at the Alaska Club, said.

“If you make a New Year’s resolution to be healthier it’s best to find an activity that you enjoy doing,” she said. “If you come in here day after day and hate working out you’re not going to be here three months from now.

“Fitness has to be enjoyed at some level; it shouldn’t be a chore,” Warwick said. “Every day, you have to get up and say you’re going to make healthy choices today. You’re not going to be perfect 100 percent of time, but if you are 90 percent of the time then the 10 percent of the time you don’t won’t kill you.”

Here are 10 healthy New Year’s resolutions suggested by Health magazine:

1. Lose weight

2. Stay in touch with friends and family

3. Quit smoking

4. Save money

5. Cut your stress

6. Volunteer

7. Go back to school

8. Cut back on alcohol

9. Get more sleep

10. Travel

Make 'SMART' resolutions:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

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