Five ways to kick-start a healthy new year
27 Jan 2022

It’s that time of year when we’re all feeling the over-indulgence of the holidays, and making resolutions to get healthy. We may be thinking of ways to tighten our belts in relation to our savings and our waistline!

But instead of setting unrealistic targets (let’s face it, many of us will be downing creme eggs again by Easter) there are some small, easy changes we can make that will make a difference and improve our health and wellbeing.

We spoke with Amy Rose, a personal trainer and nutritionist who works with XL@Football club, who Kent Reliance proudly sponsors.

We’re working with Amy on a series of articles around health, fitness and nutrition, and we’re kicking off our first one with five top tips to help you start off 2022 in a healthy way:

1. Drink two or more litres of water a day

If you don’t drink enough water it can cause dehydration, and ultimately affect your concentration and mood. Drinking 2+ litres of water a day is important, it can:

  • Help our skin (which is made up of 72% water) look healthy and refreshed
  • Reduce cravings and appetite
  • Prevent and reduce the severity of headaches
  • Aid weight loss - because water can make you feel full and boost your metabolic rate
  • Help improve gut function, kidney health and prevent water infections
  • Improve brain function, mood and emotional health
  • Minimise fatigue

Amy’s top tip: “If you’re struggling to drink the recommended amount, then fill a bottle at the beginning of the day, you may drink small amounts without noticing, or add some flavour – fruit or sugar-free squash can help make it more interesting. Bad news, tea and coffee don’t count!”

2. Go for a daily 30min walk

While we ideally need to aim for 10,000 steps a day, just 30 minutes of exercise (even a gentle walk) is better than nothing! It means you get vital fresh air and soak up much-needed vitamin D, and helps in lowering your stress levels, reducing anxiety and lowering your blood pressure.

The benefits of increasing your cardiovascular fitness are endless, and can include:

  • Strengthening bones and easing joint pain
  • Reducing excess body fat
  • Boosting muscle power and endurance
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Reducing the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers
  • Helping you sleep better at night

Amy’s top tip: “Even if you can’t do 10,000 steps or manage 30 mins, any type of movement is better than no movement, so find an activity that is suited to your age and fitness level. So grab a friend (or a dog) and make it a social thing, or plug your earphones in and listen to your favourite music - if you enjoy it, you will feel more empowered and motivated to stick with it!”

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Ensuring you get between 7-8 hours’ sleep a night means you should wake more ready to take on the day ahead. But not enough sleep can leave you feeling tired, down and struggling to concentrate. Just like regular exercise and a healthy diet, getting enough rest is an essential part of looking after your physical and mental health.

Sleep is important for:

  • Keeping your immune system strong
  • Lowering stress and improving your emotional wellbeing
  • Helping your body grow and recover
  • Improving your concentration and productivity
  • Keeping your heart healthy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Amy’s top tip: “Signs you’re not getting enough include waking in the night or still feeling tired in the morning. You can improve sleep quality by keeping your bed and awake times consistent, getting exercise and fresh air, not eating a big meal before bed, and staying away from computer or iPhone screens for at least an hour before bed. Some also find a warm bath or a good book helps to relax.”

4. Eat a balanced diet

While a new year’s resolution to completely avoid sugar, cut out all alcohol or not eat any carbs might be hard to stick to, you can make small tweaks to ensure a balanced diet is giving you the nutrients you need.

  • Eat a mix of staple foods, including wheat, maize, rice, potatoes, legumes, fruit, veg, meat, fish and dairy (allowing for any intolerances/allergies)
  • Choose wholegrain and unprocessed foods where possible
  • Avoid snacks high in sugar, fat or salt - such as raw vegetables, unsalted nuts and fruit
  • Reduce your salt and sugar intake
  • Limit your intake of trans fats (often found in pre-packaged snacks and fried foods)
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol, too often

5. Ensure a healthy breakfast

Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day. As the name suggests, it breaks the fast from the night, kick-starts your metabolism and helps your body perform at its best.

A decent breakfast:

  • Fills you up, meaning cravings and snacking are less likely
  • Keeps the chemical balance level within the brain
  • Improves your vitamin and mineral intake
  • Assists in maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • Stimulates the brain increasing alertness and concentration

Amy’s tips for a healthy breakfast include: smoothies (ideal if you need to eat on the run or in a hurry); fruit and yoghurt; overnight oats; porridge; granola; eggs or avocado on toast; and omelettes.

How to measure success

Rather than letting the scales dictate your achievements, take photos of your progress to see the difference visually (in the same outfit for instance), or take measurements. Some prefer to go by whether their clothes feel looser, or if they can fit into an old pair of jeans. Set small goals as you go, rather than a huge unachievable target.

More importantly is how you feel about yourself – is your skin brighter, do you feel less lethargic? Perhaps you’re sleeping better or your concentration has improved?

Whatever small steps you’re taking, continue them throughout the year and you’ll see the difference in no time.

Amy Rose is a personal trainer and nutritionist with over seven years’ experience. She’s currently the fitness and nutritional coach for XL@Football women’s club based in Kent. You can find out more about Amy and the services she offers on her website.