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A new year is always a good time to consider healthier habits

A new year is always a good time to consider healthier habits

Dec. 29, 2020

By Matt Cimino

Many may agree that 2020 has not been the best year. If there’s one thing it has shown us, it is that we need to be healthier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that COVID-19 is more likely to be severe in those with diabetes or are clinically overweight and obese.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, West Virginia ranks second highest in poor or fair general adult health. A 2018 survey found that almost 40% of adults in the state are obese, the highest rate in the nation. WV consistently ranks among the top lists in states regarded as having poor overall health.

These are alarming statistics. The context behind our health seems even worse considering the fact that all of these issues are preventable.

So as we round the corner on 2020, let us take the opportunity to get our personal health under control for the next year. There is never a bad time to start making healthier life choices, and it definitely does not have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Gradually transitioning can greatly increase your chances of achieving health goals, and establishing long-lasting change.

2021 is perhaps the most important year to stick to those New Year’s resolutions. And if you get prepared now, you will undoubtedly thank yourself in the future.

The CDC and many other organizations rally around a few concrete steps that are guaranteed to improve your quality of life.

The first thing you can do is eat a healthier diet. Dietary trends and buzzwords often make good nutrition and weight loss convoluted. In reality, making healthier choices in what you eat is not all that difficult.

If weight loss is your goal, the most important thing to do is ensure that you are in a calorie deficit. All this means is that you burn more calories than you take in per day. Now this does not mean that you can eat whatever you want and stay under a certain calorie threshold, because eating unfulfilling and calorie-dense food almost certainly will lead to failure.

It is important to choose foods high in protein and low in fat. Protein will keep you fuller longer, and high fat foods also tend to be high in calories. If you find a lot of food choices that are low in calories, you may find yourself eating more than you used to but still staying under your calorie limit. It’s really that simple.

Aim to have a well-rounded diet with colorful foods, high fiber, high protein, low sodium and healthy fats. The CDC offers numerous tips for achieving better overall nutrition and dieting.

The next step is to be physically active. Regular physical activity reduces your risk of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, because these preexisting conditions as well as obesity put you at greater risk of severe illness.

Cardiovascular exercise is the most important. Activities that increase your heart rate and breathing train your most essential muscle. Some examples include walking, running, biking and hiking. It is also worth noting that cardiovascular exercise burns the highest number of calories, making that calorie deficit a breeze.

Obviously, the pandemic has made working out tricky for some. But if outdoor activities are not available for you, and on days that are too cold to spend much time outside, there are other options. One of them is YouTube, which offers a tremendous amount of workout content. Conveniently, you can tailor a workout to your fitness level, the amount of time you'd like to partake in it and also the type of exercise that might appeal to you.

The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise per week for adults. Ease your way into it. You don’t have to start out running a 5k every day. Start small, and gradually build up intensity by challenging yourself to more each time. For an overview of types of exercise, click here.

One last sure-fire step is to drink more water. Up to 60% of the human body is water. It is an absolutely essential resource for regulating bodily functions and keeping yourself in good health. Limit sugary beverages as much as possible. Higher sugar consumption is linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and many other health problems.

Proper hydration goes right along with the first two steps. Water in between meals can make you feel fuller, and it is critical to drink when you are physically active. The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking about 15.5 cups per day for men, and 11.5 for women.

2020 may have you down in the dumps, but a new year presents a new opportunity to bounce back. The most rewarding part of better health is looking back to where you came from. The time to take control of your health is now, so plan for action and plan to succeed. If you are already on this journey, keep going. There is always room for improvement. Let’s make 2021 the year we truly take care of ourselves.


Matt Cimino is an intern in the public information office at Monongalia County Health Department.

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