Year after year, millions of Americans commit to New Year’s resolutions, but only a very small percentage of us actually achieve our goals — the number is as low as about 9%. This year, let’s double down with tried-and-true resolutions that make us healthier and are more likely to lead to success.
1. DRINK MORE WATER
Whether you’re trying to lose 20 pounds or take your fitness to the next level, hydration is important. Drinking the right amount of water helps keep your metabolism high, blood circulating and lets you get the most from your exercise.
For non math lovers, here’s a good rule of thumb: Drink enough water throughout the day so your urine is clear or light yellow. Also, remember: the higher your activity level, the more water you should drink.
Finally, avoid regular and diet sodas, energy drinks and sugary coffee drinks — these come with a lot of calories and can negatively affect your health.
READ MORE > 4 WAYS WATER HELPS WITH WEIGHT LOSS
2. GET 7–9 HOURS OF SLEEP
If you really want to improve your health and fitness, make sleep one of your highest priorities.
Even if you go to the gym and train religiously, without proper sleep, you won’t get the results you want. Worse, poor sleep has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
If you want to make 2018 your healthiest year yet (and maximize muscle growth and fat loss), try to get eight hours of deep, restful sleep every night. It isn’t always easy, but do what you can. Also, see natural light during the day, stop using bright electronics an hour before bedtime, keep your bedroom cool, quiet and dark and avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day.
3. EAT HEALTHY 80% OF THE TIME
Your nutrition will make or break your fitness goals. The good thing, however, is you don’t have to eat perfectly all the time. In fact, you can still enjoy the occasional pizza, beer or ice cream and still get great results.
Set a goal to eat healthy 80% of the time. For those meals, eat whole foods: lean meats, lots of vegetables, healthy fats and good sources of carbs. It’ll lead to more muscle gain, fat loss and overall health improvements.
4. ADD RESISTANCE TRAINING
Lifting weights will help you achieve your fitness goals because it helps you add muscle, burn fat, improve your body composition and boost your metabolism.
Aim to lift weights at least 2–3 times a week and do a workout consisting of free weights (not machines). The best exercises are traditional strength moves like deadlifts, bench presses, squats, rows, pullups and lunges.
5. AND DON’T FORGET AEROBIC CARDIO
Do 1–2 aerobic cardio workouts per week. Instead of high-intensity cardio, I highly recommend aerobic cardio (i.e. your heart rate stays between 120–150 bpm) for 30–45 minutes. Things like jogs, hikes, bike rides, rowing machines, etc., can do wonders for you.
First, aerobic cardio has sweeping health benefits — among them improving brain and heart health. Second, it’s the foundation for all other forms of cardio. Even when you do a bunch of sprints, it’s your aerobic system that recovers your body while you rest.
Finally, doing light aerobic workouts each week helps you burn fat without running your body into the ground. If you’re lifting weights a few times a week while juggling an extremely busy and stressful life, high-intensity cardio could push your body over the edge.
6. TAKE TIME EACH DAY TO DE-STRESS
Any doctor would agree too much stress is bad for your health. It can even affect your waistline and fitness performance. In a Yale study, scientists found stress was associated with poor muscle recovery after a workout, even when correcting for fitness level and training experience.
Instead, spend 10 minutes each day to relax and unwind. For example, take a break in the middle of the day for a quiet walk outside with no phone, meditate at home after work or listen to relaxing music during your coffee break.
Just taking a few minutes per day will boost your mood and improve your mental and physical health.
7. STAY TRUE TO YOUR GOAL
As you improve your health in the new year, you might notice more and more external pressure to pull you back. Maybe your family criticizes your new way of living or your friends insist you join them for a late night out.
Whatever the situation may be, you have to make a choice whether or not to stick to your goals. To be among those who achieve our New Year’s resolutions, one of the most important things to do is to allow yourself to say “no.” It’ll be hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier it’ll be and the healthier you’ll become.