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Couple exercising in winter. Photo: Pexels, Julia Larson.

Healthier living in 2024 begins with simple lifestyle changes

Few things are more symbolic of the coming of a new year than making health resolutions that more often than not get abandoned in coming months. The trick? Make it simple.

“As we make our way past the busy winter holidays and look toward the new year, let’s all remember to stop, take a breath and enjoy the moment,” said Dr. Graham A. Colditz of the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. “It’s an accomplishment to make it through another year, and now we can enjoy the promise of 2024.”

READ: How do you view health, faith and your doctor?

Colditz offered several practical tips to promote a healthier 2024.

  • Don’t forget healthy sleep. It may not be what most people think of when they think about healthy behaviors, but getting good sleep certainly qualifies. Among other conditions, poor-quality sleep and short sleep can increase the risk of depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. It’s good to regularly get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night. Keeping electronics out of the bedroom, avoiding large meals and caffeine close to bedtime and going to bed at a regular time are some strategies that can help.
  • Try “activity snacks.” These aren’t the snacks you keep in your backpack or desk drawer to fuel your physical activity, although, those can be important as well. “Activity snacks” are short bits of physical activity –- just a few minutes of walking or stretching or some other activity you enjoy. They can fit easily into our routines, and there’s growing evidence that adding even small amounts of physical activity to our days can give a boost to our health and well-being. “Activity snacks” can be one easy way to do that.
  • Take a stand against too much sitting. It’s a fact of modern life: Many of us spend a lot of time sitting during the day. And it turns out that’s just not great for our health. Being sedentary has been linked to an increased risk of many chronic diseases, even in those who exercise otherwise. So, on top of being regularly active, it’s also important to break up long periods of sitting. Try standing breaks every hour or so, starting small and then slowly building up the amount of standing.
  • Spend time in parks and other green spaces. Along with the recommendation to get more sleep, this may be one of the more appealing health tips for 2024. As with sleep, there’s good science behind it. Spending time in parks and other open green spaces can help with mental health and lower the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Take some time to search out and visit parks in your area, especially when the weather turns nicer, or plan a visit to state or national parks when you have more time.
  • Toast to alcohol-free alternatives. The science has shown for a while that when it comes to diseases such as cancer and our overall health and well-being, zero alcohol is the healthiest choice. And the marketplace is quickly catching up, with many alcohol-free options that can taste a lot like regular drinks with alcohol. And for even healthier, lower-calorie options, there are always alternatives such as fizzy water or unsweetened coffee and teas.

–Alan Goforth | MV

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