Question of the Week

January 2, 2006


This week, many people made New Year's resolutions. Many of these resolutions were health related. Some have probably already been broken. Whether broken, or not yet made, it is not too late to resolve to have a healthier 2006.

For those still trying to decide, here are some resolution suggestions for those
"13-years-old and up"
" * I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day, and I will limit the amount of soda I drink.
  * I will take care of my body through physical activity and nutrition. ...
  * When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find constructive ways to
     deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or discussing
     my problem with a parent or friend.
  * When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk with an adult about my choices.
  * I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without coercion or violence.
* I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol."

While resolutions for a healthier year can take many forms and affect many aspects of life, there are some that seem to be popular year after year -- and for good reason.

"The most common New Year's resolutions are about healthier living -- losing weight, getting more exercise and quitting smoking. Physicians and other health care experts applaud the renewed commitment because, according to a report by the University of Washington, 60 percent of Americans die from illnesses connected to behavior, such as overeating, lack of exercise and smoking."

For years "Stop Smoking" has been a popular resolution. In fact, it has been so popular that many have already quit and it no longer sits at number one on some lists of health-related resolutions.

"STOP SMOKING There are more ex-smokers today than current smokers, says Dr. Steven Schroeder of the University of California, San Francisco. Most folks quit cold turkey, usually after more than one attempt, but you'll improve your chances with medication--like a nicotine patch or gum--and some counseling. If you call a stop-smoking hotline like 1-800-QUITNOW, you'll be given an individualized program that's based on your smoking history and needs.",10987,1142293,00.html

For those trying to quit, massive ad campaigns are being distributed by several organizations (at the national, state and local levels) to give those who are looking to quit this year a place to turn for additional help.

"ALBANY, December 28, 2005 - State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H., today urged all New Yorkers who smoke, to make a New Year's resolution to quit smoking in 2006. ... 'The health benefits of quitting smoking are undeniable. A smoker who quits reduces their risk of developing smoking-related heart disease, stroke, cancer and emphysema,' said Dr. Novello. 'If you are a smoker thinking about quitting, I strongly urge you to take back your health and make this a smoke-free New Year, quit for life.' ... Additional benefits of quitting include avoiding premature wrinkling of the skin; bad breath; stained teeth; gum disease; bad smelling clothes and hair; yellow fingernails and regaining your sense of smell and taste. Daily exercise becomes more productive and beneficial for a person who quits smoking because they will breathe easier and their stamina will increase."

There are certainly clear benefits for those who quit smoking (and for those who never start). Many who don't smoke (including those who never did) are looking for other ways to be healthier in 2006.

"This may be the prime time for dieting, but a survey suggests Britons are shunning trendy weight loss plans. A Marks and Spencer poll of 1,000 people found the number opting for balanced meals instead has risen by around a fifth in five years. In 2000, 50% claimed to eat well and one in five was on a diet, but now two thirds eat a balanced diet - and only 7% opt for strict dietary regimes. Dieticians welcomed the move away from faddy eating habits. They said a balanced diet and exercise plan was the best way to lose weight."

A healthier lifestyle includes a healthy diet and exercise. This is not new news. Even those who are too young to remember having made very many New Year's resolutions in the past are vowing to make this the year to begin eating healthier.

"'My New Year's promise is to eat my vegetables because they make me tall, tall, tall! Sabrina Haugum-Diego, [age] 3 1/2' ... 'In 2005, I ate a lot of junk food so, this year, I will eat better foods like apples and bananas. Hunter Ketchum, [age] 9.'"

For many, a healthy diet comes with the goal of a healthy weight. A few are resolving to eat in a healthy manner and gain pounds to reach a healthy weight. Some are resolving to maintain a healthy diet and, with that, a healthy weight. Still more are looking to that healthy diet to help them lose the extra pounds that are keeping them from the goal of a healthy weight...

"While losing weight is difficult for many people, it is even more challenging to keep weight off. Eighty percent to 85 percent of those who lose a large amount of weight regain it. One theory about regaining lost weight is that people who decrease their caloric intake to lose weight experience a drop in their metabolic rate, making it increasingly difficult to lose weight over a period of months. A lower metabolic rate may also make it easier to regain weight after a more normal diet is resumed. For these reasons, extremely low calorie diets and rapid weight loss are discouraged. Losing no more than one to two pounds per week is recommended. Incorporating long-term lifestyle changes will increase the chance of successful long-term weight loss."

Diet is not alone in creating a healthy lifestyle. More often than not we hear "diet and exercise" in the same breath as health experts encourage healthier living. If your resolution is to "get more exercise" this year, then:

"Start small, with simple changes, says James Hill of the Health Sciences Center at the University of Colorado. ... Once you have achieved your first goal, it's time to set another.",10987,1142293,00.html

While this study focuses on "children and young teens," they are not the only ones motivated by fun...

"Children and young teens may be more likely to exercise if they're motivated by fun and fitness rather than weight concerns, a new study suggests. In a study of 200 students (average age, 12-1/2 years) at one Pennsylvania middle school, researchers found that 'personal fulfillment' was the only motivation to be active. That meant that kids tended to exercise for the sake of their health and athletic skills, and to simply feel good -- and not in order to shed pounds or to emulate their friends or parents. ... But weight goals did not spur kids to exercise. In fact, personal fulfillment was the only factor that was important for all students, regardless of their weight. Even though overweight children put more value on weight loss than their thinner peers did, personal fulfillment was still a more important motivation to be active, according to findings published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. ... If kids are indeed motivated by health, skill-building and fun, then physical education in schools may be able to play a key role, according to Haverly. Not all kids have the athleticism or interest needed for organized sports, she pointed out, so it's important for them to have the chance to exercise in a non-competitive, health-focused way."

Whatever your plans, it is best for people making lifestyle changes to make sure that what they are doing is going to offer the benefits they are looking for with as few risks as possible...

"Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But sometimes it's best to check with your doctor before you begin to exercise. Regular exercise can help you control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, and strengthen your bones and muscles. But before you lace up your workout shoes, you may want to talk to your doctor. Although physical activity is perfectly safe for most people, sometimes it's important to get a doctor's OK before you exercise. ... Working with your doctor ahead of time may be the best way to plan an exercise program that's right for you. Consider it the first step on the path to physical fitness."

Questions of the Week:
What resolutions (if any) have you made this year? What resources are available to help you keep the resolutions you made? What resolutions should be more than just a one year commitment? For those who have already broken their resolutions, how would you encourage them (or yourself) to continue in the direction of healthy living? For those who don't like to make official resolutions, what changes can (or should) you make so that 2006 and the years to follow are healthier than previous years?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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