Five ways to take control of your health this month

From aqua cycling to the power of meditation, find out all the ways you can start the year off on a healthier, happier note.

a woman holding a measuring tape around her waist holding a salad

(Photo, Getty Images.)

1. Add some wiggle room to weight-loss goals
We love this easy, guaranteed-for-success tip from Florida State University: Set a “less specific” weight-loss goal instead of a strict one. It sounds counterintuitive, but researchers say you’re more likely to achieve this kind of goal in the long run. It’s all about focusing on a high/low-range target (such as “I plan to lose two to four pounds”) instead of an exact number. Think of it as a “best-of-both-worlds approach,” says researcher Dr. Maura L. Scott. “The high/low-range goal has two anchor points, so it’s both attainable (on the low end) and more challenging (on the higher end).”
Bonus: Researchers say once you’ve hit the low-range target, you’re more likely to reach the high-end one because you’ve already experienced success!

2. Double up on healthy habits
Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Will and Kate. Some things are just better together. Now you can add nutrition and fitness to the list of power couples. A new study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine proves the best strategy for getting healthy is focusing on diet and exercise at the same time. Researchers spent a year doling out advice to people trying to kick-start healthy habits, and found that those who received both diet and exercise tips from the start were more likely to stay on track than those who learned about one subject after the other.
Try it today: Take on two small challenges — ditch dessert, and power walk after dinner.

3. Trend alert! Aqua fitness
With bikini season a distant memory, jumping into the pool may sound crazy. But a new fitness fad is travelling our way (via N.Y.C.) and, trust us, it’ll make you jump ship on whatever workout you’re doing now.
What it is: Aqua Spin — yes, spin class on a partially submerged stationary bike — is the sport du jour among the celebrity set, perhaps because it comes with a special guarantee of burning mega calories (and busting cellulite).
Spotted at: The Université du Québec à Montréal’s recreation centre and Halifax’s Canada Games Centre.
Targets: Core, quads and glutes.
Pro tip: To rock your ride, keep your back straight and engage those abs.
Fun factor: Our insider says, “It didn’t feel like a workout at the time because it was too much fun. But I definitely felt it the next day.”
Bonus: New research out of Montreal says exercising in water may improve heart health more than hitting the pavement! Discover new water sports and our fave waterproof MP3 players here.

4. Use the power of your brain to change your life for the better:

Think about the future you: Researchers at the University of Buffalo say training your brain to imagine how great you’ll look in the future can help you delay the gratification of a hot chocolate sundae today!

Visualize your way to more cardio: Our fave tip comes from FreshCleanFit on Tumblr: “Run like Ryan Gosling is waiting for you at the finish line with a puppy.”

Prioritize beauty rest: If you have trouble sleeping, darken your room. New research from the University of Texas says snoozing in a quiet dark room promotes the production of the hormone melatonin, helping you to fall asleep faster. Restful sleep can also lead to better calorie-burning. Win-win!

Take mini-breaks for meditation: Before you get out of bed each morning, close your eyes and take five deep breaths. That’s all it takes! Repeat at lunch.

Choose happiness more often: We hold 40 percent of our “capacity for happiness” in our hands, says researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California, Riverside. Make the choice!

5. Think about resolutions
“People often ask me for my best tip to make positive changes in life. And I can tell you, when it comes to health and fitness, there’s no better guarantee for success than giving yourself a hard deadline — and that means creating a real goal (or yes, making a resolution). So if exercising more is part of your plan, join me now in registering for a spring race or charity walk. Just knowing you have something solid booked in the calendar is a perfect motivator. Let me know what run you choose, and maybe I’ll see you on the course! What’s your New Year’s fitness resolution? Tweet #ChatHealth and let us know.” —Deputy editor Laurie Jennings


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