Are you looking to improve your physical training or begin a healthy diet? To help make your new year’s resolutions a reality, here is a guide on how to start and maintain a healthier lifestyle in 2018.

Plan out your fitness goals

It’s never too late to start on a new fitness goal. One helpful planning tool is the SMART goal acronym: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Your plan should be specific: what you want to accomplish, when and where you want to work out or eat, which types of exercises or diets you want to do, and why you want to achieve this goal.

For instance, for physical training, start by noting down the exact days and times you plan to work out. You can start by making your workout time length 30 minutes and then incrementally increase your time to 45 and 60 minutes.

After choosing your desired method, select where you want to work out, focus on what you want to accomplish, and be sure to vary your exercise routine to build new muscles and keep motivated about exercise.


Track your progression

A key way to maintain your fitness goals is to make short-term and long-term goals, then monitor your improvements over time.

Fitness apps such as Map My Fitness, Nike+ Training Club, and Skimble’s Workout Trainer can track your distance, speed, and calories burned. The Fitbit Charge 2 also monitors heart rate and hours of sleep per night; the Fitbit Flex 2 is a more affordable option for students and can be worn underwater.


Build up your physical training

Strength training increases bone density and strengthens the heart and brain. The two rules to improving strength training are to 1) lift heavy, and 2) perform multi-joint exercises that engage various muscles. The best strength exercises are squats and deadlifts for lower body, and bench press and barbell row for upper body.

Begin these exercises with basic routines, then add variations that make use of your body weight, like resistance bands and dumbbells. Positive techniques include: adding five pounds for upper body and 10 pounds for lower body and five to eight reps per exercise for three to five sets.

Cardiovascular endurance improves your metabolism, overall heart health, and blood circulation. To improve your cardiovascular endurance, participate in aerobic activities such as sprinting, rowing, cycling, and stair-climbing. Varying the degree of intensity using high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts will increase your metabolism and VO2 max faster than steady-state training.

Implement HIIT when sprinting by running at your maximum intensity for 20–30 seconds, jogging for one minute, and then repeating the cycle for 20 minutes. The same technique can be applied to other aerobic exercises such as rowing and cycling.


Enrich your diet

Nutrition plays a major role in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. To fuel your performance, eat a variety of natural foods that are not overly processed and contain little refined sugar. One way to stabilize blood sugar is to eat at constant intervals throughout the day — for example, have three larger meals and three smaller meals. A 2017 study conducted by Dr. Emilia Papakonstantinou at the University of Athens showed that eating six meals rather than three meals, with the same number of calories, improved blood sugar control and reduced hunger.

According to Canada’s food guide, you should consume six to seven servings of whole grains, such as whole grain bran, oats, and barley, each day. Opt for healthier forms of protein such as red lean meat, fish, and chicken. Unsaturated fats such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, fish, and avocado play an important role in hormone production. Increase your vegetable intake as well — research has shown that the higher your fruit and vegetable consumption, the lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Drink plenty of water to hydrate yourself and maintain fluid balance. The adequate daily fluid intake is 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups for women.

When you’ve planned your fitness schedule and committed to it for one year, you will have discovered a new you by the end of 2018.

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