Spring is a time of fresh beginnings and new growth, so why not take advantage of that positive energy and commit to a renewal of your own well-being? After this long, harsh winter has sapped us—physically, nutritionally, mentally and spiritually—there’s no better time to make small changes that give big results.
Franciscan Health experts hope to jump-start your motivation by providing reasonable, yet effective, recommendations for simple lifestyle changes that will help you meet your health goals, not only during the spring, but throughout the year and beyond.
Carlos Celis, a Franciscan Health wellness specialist, believes that being realistic is the key to realizing one’s exercise promises.
“First, find something you enjoy and that will be easy for you to do,” Celis said. “If you hate running, then don’t start a running program. Try brisk walking instead. Also, consider what is nearby. Maybe you enjoy swimming, but if you don’t have access to a pool, that’s not a good choice, either. Your best choice is something that you are able to do.”
Other fitness tips:
- Exercise at the right time. If you’re not a morning person, first thing in the morning might not work for you. But don’t use that as an excuse for not exercising, and be aware that the longer you put off exercising, the harder it is to get motivated to begin a program.
- Set specific, realistic and attainable goals— short-term and long-term. A weekly goal might be to work out four times, while a long-term goal might be to finish a 5K race. Keep goals attainable. If you’ve never run before, don’t attempt a marathon in the first couple of months. A 5K would be a better choice.
- Monitor your progress. Keep a journal to see improvements. Note feelings about your exercise program, as well as accomplishments.
- Don’t push yourself too hard, or you’ll want to quit. While progress takes work, allow adequate time to reach each new level.
- Reward yourself for each goal reached. Buy a new book, an article of clothing, or something else enjoyable.
- Vary or change the routine. When a workout routine starts to get stale, add variety. If you walk, run or cycle, try new and different routes. If nothing else, do a regular route in reverse. Or, try adding another activity for change. That allows for cross-training and helps prevent boredom.
Kathy Kesling, a Franciscan Health registered dietitian in Michigan City, agrees that starting slowly, and still enjoying what you eat, are crucial to forming long-term healthy eating habits.
“Start with small, specific changes that you can build on,” Kesling said. “For example, work on adding a fruit or vegetable serving at each meal or limiting fried foods and replacing them with baked or broiled foods. Try substituting a whole-grain bread or cereal for a refined grain you would usually eat.”
In addition, Kesling said, “Keep a food record and compare your selections to suggestions from the interactive website at ChooseMyPlate.gov. Or, access one of the nutrition and fitness smart phone apps to help you track and manage your dietary goals. Use the knowledge gained to target areas you need to improve.”
Kesling suggested following these guildelines:
- Eat more whole grains by choosing whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.
- Choose a variety of vegetables, especially the colorful dark green, red and orange vegetables, as well as beans and peas.
- Add fruit to meals and snacks.
- Include three or more servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
- Use moderate amounts of canola, corn, olive, peanut or soybean oils in place of solid fats.
- Eat less added sugars (such as sugar, honey, corn syrup), solid fats (like margarine, butter, shortening), refined grains and sodium.
“We have a responsibility to care for the body and mind because of our great privilege of being made in God’s image,” said Fr. Tony Janik, OFM, with Franciscan Health spiritual care services in Crown Point. “But we are more than body and mind; we are also spirit and soul. We need to find balance in caring for the whole person.”
Janik offers the following suggestions for spiritual enrichment:
- Meditation: “This is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey it in our life,” Janik said. “Take time away from the noise and hurried way of life to quiet yourself so you can be sensitive to God’s presence.”
- Prayer: “Real prayer is life-creating and life changing. Listen to the Lord and ask yourself, ‘What is He saying to me? What is my response?’”
- Reading of Scripture: “Do not try to read the Bible in one sitting,” Janik said. “Take only one or two verses or a story at a time, and ask yourself, ‘What does this say to me? How can I apply this to my life?’”
- Celebrate your Life: “Celebration brings us and others joy and happiness,” Janik said. “Joy is the spirit that brings us energy and power. It makes life worth living.”