Maintenance is the key to progression

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By Colin Milner, CEO, International Council on Active Aging

Now that we are nearly two weeks into 2016, how are your New Year’s resolutions going? You know, the ones about getting healthier, losing weight, and taking better care of yourself.

Have these resolutions driven you to hit the gym? What about cutting sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet? If you are like most people, your resolutions started out strong but they are fading quickly, as have so many others from years past.

Here’s the problem with most health-related New Year’s resolutions: they fail to become new habits that truly make a difference to our overall health and well-being. Maybe it’s time to stop this tradition of false expectations and start a new one of taking small steps toward better health.

Imagine if we did not make a big deal out of what we hoped to accomplish, but just went out and did it as a series of small, consistent changes. Would eliminating the hoopla take the pressure off? According to former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, the keys to living a healthy life are six-fold: exercise, eat well, refrain from smoking, minimize alcohol consumption, get enough sleep, and reduce stress. Sounds simple, right? Far too many people make their money by turning a healthy lifestyle into something confusing and complicated, but you don’t need to go along with it. You can choose instead to do simple things that make a difference for the long term.

Keep it simple

Most diets fail because people try to overhaul their entire eating pattern at once. Instead of going on a diet, why not start eating smaller portions instead? The goal is to make this a progressive habit, as it’s a challenge to give up something entirely in one go. What about exercise? The latest fitness trends inspire action, so perhaps trying a new and exciting physical activity will help jumpstart your fitness routine. Trends come and go, however. Try setting a daily physical activity goal to help you maintain an active lifestyle. Research shows that as little as 10 minutes of physical activity at a time can help you meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. Consistency is the key ingredient for getting and staying healthy and fit.

Keep at it

Did you know that inactivity can lead to a decline of close to 50 percent of your strength between the ages of 35 and 70? By getting and staying fit, you will promote better physical fitness and function as you age, avoiding the deeper declines experienced by people who are inactive. I challenge you to make the New Year a time to refresh and focus on maintaining a lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle, especially movement. Only through consistent action will habits form, so get moving every day for better health. It all starts with the first step. So the next time others ask you about your New Year’s resolutions, tell them your goal is to refresh and make shifts toward maintaining a regular physical activity program. After all, a little maintenance goes a long way.

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