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Health & Fitness

12 realistic health and wellness goals to set for the new year

Feeling inspired to take on the new year? Check out these health and wellness resolutions

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While the New Year is certainly an inspirational time to set out to form new healthy habits, it’s easy to get too enthusiastic and set unrealistic goals. An achievable New Year’s resolution will be specific, realistic, and measurable—something you can achieve with some effort but without too much sacrifice.

That said, setting an attainable New Year’s resolution requires some thought and preparation. Not sure how to fine-tune your goals of “exercising more” or “eating healthy?” Check out these attainable health and wellness goals to set for the new year.

1. Add an extra day of movement to your routine

A woman tying her sneaker in a field.
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Do you get enough exercise? Try adding an extra day of movement into your routine.

Come January 1, many set out to “exercise more,” but to keep a New Year’s resolution, it helps to be more specific.

You could try to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendation to exercise 30 minutes five days a week, and include muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. But if that sounds like a big jump from where you are, start with whatever feels comfortable. Try exercising for 30 minutes one or two days a week, or going on three 10-minute walks throughout the day. Once you get comfortable with your new exercise routine, you can add an extra day, or even an extra 10 minutes to your existing workouts.

2. Try a new exercise every month

A woman doing yoga in warrior pose.
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Try new exercises with our favorite workout app, Nike Training Club.

To shake things up and keep yourself looking forward to exercising, consider the goal of adding one new workout every month. This could mean you test out a new modality—maybe by queuing up a barre class on YouTube or checking out a new studio—or simply adding a new movement to your existing sequence. The variety can keep you from getting bored and you may find a few new ways to move that you love.

Those who enjoy exercising at home may want to consider virtual fitness programs. For an app that offers a multitude of workout classes all in one place, check out Nike Training Club. As our favorite workout app, users can take fun, high quality yoga, HIIT, pilates classes, and more—for free. And if you don’t like feeling tethered to a screen, check out Aaptiv, which offers up hundreds of audio-based workouts to follow.

If you're ready to get back to the gym, many fitness studios have discounted first classes, which are a great way to explore new workouts. You can also try a subscription service like ClassPass to get access to multiple studios in your area and score some discounted rates.

3. Run a 5K

Three people running together on a trail.
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Not sure how to start running? Try signing up for a 5K for some external motivation.

Signing up for a race is one way to give yourself some outside motivation, and a 5K (which translates to 3.1 miles) is a challenging but not too ambitious goal for those who are new to running or run-walking.

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Many online training programs span about eight weeks—the popular app Couch to 5K (C25K) takes nine—and can take you from novice to race-ready in no time.

Get the C25K app on the App Store and Google Play

4. Do a pull-up

A woman doing an assisted pull-up.
Credit: Getty Images / SrdjanPav

Learn how to do a pull-up in the new year.

For those who love hitting the weight room, shooting for a new personal record is one way to push yourself, and performing a pull-up is a great challenge to conquer in the new year.

How long it will take to accomplish your first pull-up will depend on your current level of strength. To prepare, you’ll want to spend time developing your back, shoulder, and core strength with exercises like lat pull-downs and bicep curls.

Most gyms have an assisted pull-up machine you can use to build up your strength, but you can also use a resistance band on a regular pull-up bar if you need to take some of the load off.

5. Set a step goal

A woman looking at a fitness tracker on her wrist.
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How many steps you should take in a day can vary based on your current activity.

Walking is a great exercise for your cardiovascular health and is a sneaky way to work your leg and core muscles.

Setting a step goal can help motivate you to move, and it doesn’t have to be as high as 10,000 steps for you to see results. One way to create a walking goal is with a fitness tracker or pedometer. Before upping your exercise habits, wear the tracker around for a week to determine your baseline daily step count. Bumping that up by 10% weekly is an achievable way to see more of the benefits of walking without feeling intimidated.

For a fitness tracker that makes it easy to monitor your activity levels, check out the Fitbit Charge 5. This tracker automatically counts your steps, sends you reminders to move, and lets you record workouts right from your wrist using built-in GPS for outdoor activities.

Get the Fitbit Charge 5 from Amazon for $129.95

6. Go to sleep at the same time every night

A woman sleeping in bed.
Credit: Getty Images / Ridofranz

Having a set bedtime can help you feel more rested.

One reason many adults don’t get enough sleep is because they don’t have a consistent bedtime routine. Going to bed at roughly the same time every night and waking up at a consistent time in the morning will keep your circadian rhythm on track, helping you fall asleep and wake up more easily.

But if you’re not happy with your current sleep routine, bumping up your bedtime from 1 a.m. to 9 p.m. is a huge—and arguably, unrealistic—feat that may lead to frustration and difficulty falling asleep at night. Start small by adjusting your bedtime by half an hour and give yourself several days or more to adjust to your new schedule before moving it earlier.

7. Stop using your phone before bed

A woman sleeping on her side in bed.
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Avoiding your phone before going to sleep can improve your circadian rhythm.

Yes, putting your electronics away before bed will help you sleep better. The blue light from screens can impact your circadian rhythm and melatonin production, and doom-scrolling on social media certainly isn’t going to help you doze off to peaceful dreams.

Still, leaving your electronics outside the bedroom is an ambitious goal for most. If you’re not quite there yet, aim for just staying off your devices for an hour before bed and taking advantage of your phone’s night settings, which reduce the emitted blue light.

8. Drink incrementally more water per day

A woman filling up her water bottle at the kitchen sink.
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How much water should you drink per day? Aim for a gallon.

You may know the importance of proper hydration, but do you know how much water you should be drinking per day? Experts recommend women drink 92 fluid ounces, or 11.5 cups, of water per day and men drink 124 fluid ounces, or 15.5 cups, daily.

If you know you’re not hitting that but the idea of consuming what amounts to a gallon a day leaves you feeling water-logged, start smaller by adding a water bottle you look forward to using to your daily repertoire. We recommend the Brita stainless steel filtering water bottle. Its built-in filter keeps your water tasty, no matter where you refill, and the insulation will keep your sips ice-cold.

If forgetting to refill is your biggest issue, get a big bottle you only have to top up once a day—this can also serve as a way to measure your baseline and challenge yourself to increase your intake. This Fidus one-gallon water bottle has time stamps on the side with encouraging notes to inspire you to hit each marker throughout the day and is a great way to stay motivated and track your progress.

9. Eat three balanced meals a day

A healthy-looking meal with lots of vegetables.
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If you're wondering how you can eat healthier, aim to eat three balanced meals a day.

Step up your nutrition in the new year—rather than cutting out foods or food groups—and aim to eat three balanced meals a day. The healthy eating plate from Harvard University’s School of Public Health recommends filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit (the more variety, the better), a quarter with protein (like from fish, poultry, beans, or nuts), and a quarter with whole grains (get creative—in addition to bread and pasta, try oats, quinoa, and corn). The plate also includes a water glass for proper hydration and a spot for healthy fats such as olive oil.

A free food tracking app like Cronometer can help you track what you eat and learn more about portion sizing to fill your plate with enough servings of fats, proteins, and carbs. (However, you should steer clear of calorie-counting apps if you have a history of disordered eating and instead seek professional guidance for nutritional needs.)

Get the Cronometer app on the App Store and Google Play

10. Try a new food once a week

A woman looking at the produce shelf in a grocery store.
Credit: Getty Images / Goodboy Picture Company

Try a new food every week for a healthy New Year's resolution.

Whether you’re a picky eater or just looking to be more adventurous in the kitchen, changing up your eating habits by trying new foods can be a great goal. Eating new foods can help you achieve a balanced diet and, if you enjoy cooking, can keep you from getting bored of preparing the same meals.

You can try a new vegetable, grain, or protein once a week; use a new ingredient or spice while cooking; or find a new recipe that prepares foods you know you enjoy in new ways. The variety in meals can help you stay inspired to try new foods for the entire year and have fun with your resolution.

11. Meditate for five minutes every day

A man meditating in the living room.
Credit: Getty Images / Moyo Studio

Meditation apps like Headspace or Noom Mood can help you start meditation for beginners.

Meditation can help you reduce stress, wind down for bed, and is overall a great way to take a timeout for your own wellbeing. And you can start seeing the benefits of meditation even if you only reflect for a few minutes a day.

We think Headspace is the best meditation app for its wide array of sessions, including both grounding mid-day classes and ultra relaxing nighttime meditations to lull you to sleep. Headspace also lets you easily adjust the length of your sessions, from three to 20 minutes, making it a great choice for anyone who may want to work their way up to longer meditations.

While not a meditation app, we also recommend Noom Mood for beginners wanting to learn more about mental wellness. Noom Mood works by giving users short articles to read, stress management techniques to practice, and access to a personal wellness coach to guide you through it all. Our tester learned a lot about emotional wellbeing using Noom’s psychological approach and discovered helpful de-stressing exercises.

12. Spend one night a week doing something that makes you happy

A bubble bath with candles.
Credit: Getty Images / Comstock Images

Make a self-care New Year's resolution.

Self-care looks different for everybody—it could be doing a facial, treating yourself to takeout, or tidying your bedroom. At its core, self-care is taking time for yourself and doing something that makes you feel good.

Making it a resolution to spend one night a week indulging in a self-care activity is a great way to keep yourself relaxed and happy—be it with a sudsy bubble bath using the Nectar bath bombs, or our favorite foot massager, the Renpho heated foot massager.

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