Skip to Content

NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.

Healthy You

Health experts share their top tips for a healthier new year

Tuesday, January 09, 2024 12:34 PM

By Endeavor Health

How many times have you vowed to “live healthier” in the new year, then had the vow fall to the wayside because it felt too big to tackle?

We’ve all been there. The thing is, living healthier doesn’t require a full-fledged lifestyle overhaul. Even if you feel your current lifestyle is (ahem) less than healthy.

Woman walking down a road

We asked physicians, dietitians, fitness trainers and mental health experts for their top tips to live healthier, and you may be surprised by the simplicity.

The thing to remember is that you don’t have to incorporate every tip at once. If there’s an area you’d like to change, try that first. Gradually introducing healthier habits can be a slow process, but that’s how you’ll make it stick.

Choose a realistic, achievable goal (be honest with yourself), then track your progress.

1. Eat healthier

  • Susan Hudec, MD: Avoid beverages with sugar including soda, juice and smoothies with hidden calories. Try to avoid drinking your calories.
  • Bonnie Stabrawa, MD: Drink a big glass of water when you wake up in the morning. We're all relatively dehydrated when we wake up in the morning, so getting a glass in first thing is a great way to start the day.
  • Danielle Bass, MD: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables — and drink more water!
  • Annie Scott, RD, LDN, MPH: Focus on one specific nutrition goal you want to change. It might be cutting down on sugary beverages, increasing vegetables or cooking at home more. Make changes based on your current diet routine (a good way to do this is to keep a food journal or download an app on your phone). If you are eating one vegetable per day, your goal might be to increase this to at least two servings of vegetables per day. Then consider ways to add vegetables to other foods, such as smoothies, omelets or salads. You could also try roasting vegetables or eating them raw.
  • Ralph Hermes, MD: Think about what you want to eat and the portion prior to your meals. Limit your alcohol intake. Some experts challenge the view that there is a safe dose of alcohol, and they suggest avoidance of alcohol completely. The 2020 - 2025 dietary guidelines for Americans advise no more than two drinks per day for males and one drink per day for nonpregnant females.

 2. Exercise more

  • Susan Hudec, MD: Increase physical activity by 15 minutes daily by taking a walk at lunch. or walking up and down the stairs 3 times or parking your car farther from the door.
  • Bonnie Stabrawa, MD: I personally am trying a new body movement goal to supplement my regular cardio: doing some form of body movement for 10 minutes every morning. It could be 10 minutes of strength training, yoga, Pilates or stretching. I find this gives me more energy in the morning. Ten minutes is a short enough time that it doesn't seem too daunting, and it's enough to get my heart rate up and helps wake me up. Then I drink another glass of water when I'm done.
  • Danielle Bass, MD: Exercise 30 minutes a day, making sure to stretch before and after exercise.
  • Annie Scott, RD, LDN, MPH: The start of a new year is a great time to try something new. Just remember to set reasonable goals. If you are currently not exercising, it might not be realistic to say you are going to work out every day. It might be more beneficial to set a goal to work out at least 1-2 days per week. If you do more than 1-2 days per week, you will feel even more accomplished! Another good way to incorporate exercise is by tracking your steps. Cleaning the house, taking the stairs, and grocery shopping is also considered exercise.
  • Ralph Hermes, MD: Plan workouts ahead of time. Kids are very active, if you are around kids, plan/set up games that require activity with them.
  • Carol Teteak, MS, ACE CPT, NASM PES: The negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle are alarming! Heart disease, obesity, vein-related issues, high blood pressure and diabetes are just a few risk factors on a list that seems to grow larger each year as more research is conducted. Adding more activity to your daily life can help reduce these effects, and starting can be as simple as adding a walk to your everyday routine. For more significant improvements, regular exercise that includes cardio, resistance, neuromotor and flexibility training is key. If you’re not sure what or how much to do or have limitations that may prevent you from performing certain exercises, I recommend talking to a certified fitness professional familiar working with all ages, abilities, and fitness levels. Talk to your doctor about a referral to a Medical Fitness Program which can guide you to safely begin moving more so you can feel better!

 3. Practice self-care

  • Zachary Bulwa, MD: To improve the quality of your life it is critical to continuously push for increased physical activity, mental activity and social interactions. This can be a new exercise routine, walking for a longer period of time or a further distance, reading a book in a new genre, starting a new puzzle, or joining a sports or book club.
  • Susan Hudec, MD: I am going to try adding 5 minutes of quiet in my mornings by setting my alarm just a few minutes earlier.
  • Lauren Campbell, LCSW: My number one tip for the new year is to recognize the value and the power of boundaries in your life. Boundaries are a great tool for recognizing and protecting what is most valuable to us — our time, our finances, our energy, our peace, etc. Oftentimes we are avoidant or afraid to set boundaries, fearing others will judge us or will label us a bad person, but boundaries enable us to be honest with ourselves and others regarding our abilities, wants and needs. Boundaries are absolutely a form of self-care, but they are also relationship care. Boundaries enable us to continue to foster healthy relationships based on clarity, respect and honesty. Boundaries can be great for yourself — maybe you need to set a limit on how much social media you want to engage in or how much time and energy you want to spend thinking about a particular issue. Preparing for the new year is a great opportunity to reflect and evaluate the benefits that a new, clearer, firmer boundary with self and others.
  • Ryan Lauterwasser, LCPC: Choosing to be grateful will change our perspective. This decision may lead to taking less offense when others make mistakes or allowing ourselves to let go and move forward from a past grievance. One might actually feel a little lighter, less resentful, and more connected to others. Although there is a lot to gain from adopting a life of gratitude, it does require work and being intentional about what we say and do and how we say and do it.
  • Zahab Ahsan, MD: Remain active, find purpose and develop a community. Find a hobby, something to distract from the challenges of life and an opportunity to disconnect. Have a primary care doctor and being compliant with their recommendations.
  • Doug Tran, MD: I make an effort to recognize and manage stress in my life. Signs of stress may include poor sleep, increased anger and turning to unhealthy habits to relieve stress. I make it a priory to get enough sleep and rest. I spend a short period of time journaling in the morning. The morning for me has always been a special time that offers a sense of inspiration, renewal and optimism. I use prompts like, “I am grateful for…,” “What am I proud of from yesterday,” “What will today look like?” Every now and then I like to read past entries and read through what I wrote, paying attention not just to see what’s different about what I was focused on but how has my outlook and attitude changed over time. I try to get outside and enjoy nature as much as possible. I try to do this even as short as 20 minutes. It helps me to be more active, connect to my local community, and feel more relaxed.
  • Ralph Hermes, MD: Schedule physicals and preventative care visits with your primary care physician to make sure you are up to date on all your age-appropriate screenings. Take precautions to prevent spreading illnesses. Stay home if sick, cover mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing. Hand hygiene is of utmost importance. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home.

Need a doctor? Find the right one for you.

NorthShore University HealthSystem, Swedish Hospital, Northwest Community Healthcare and Edward-Elmhurst Health are now united under one name, Endeavor Health. We’re setting a new standard for healthcare that’s focused on you, because your best health is our endeavor. Learn more.