Five Keys to Reaching Resolution Goals

It’s that time of year again – look in the mirror, get on the scale, see the dietary damage you’ve done to yourself since Thanksgiving, and make those promises, promises, promises!

When it comes to our annual rites of resolution, the best way to pursue success, according to psychologist Stephen Kraus, PhD., is to focus on five techniques. Kraus is the author of Psychological Foundations of Success: A Harvard-Trained Scientist Separates the Science of Success from Self-Help Snake Oil, and he offers the following advice for achieving your personal goals.

Adopt a realistic vision of success. “No one can safely lose 50 pounds in a month,” Kraus says. “Yet these and other unrealistic expectations about weight loss abound.”

Adopt an effective strategy. “Focus on relatively short-term goals,” he says. “Instead of focusing on losing so many pounds over the coming year, tell yourself, ‘I’m going to eat vegetables four times a day and do at least 20 minutes of cardio a day for the next two weeks.’ A lot of research shows the benefits of such short-term goals.”

Renew your commitment. “I think if there’s a problem with resolutions it’s that people don’t make them often enough,” Kraus says. “Once a year is not enough for you to step back and take a look at your life and say, ‘this is working well,’ or ‘this is not working well.’ Do this at least quarterly, and better yet, once a month.”

Don’t despair. “People are much more likely to overlook their success and to beat themselves up over setbacks,” Kraus says. “Instead of saying, ‘I did pretty well for two weeks so I’m going to forgive myself for this one little setback,’ people start to think, ‘I’ve failed.’ That sets them up for the snowball effect where one little setback snowballs into a complete collapse.”

Learn from your mistakes. “As if the failures in the first four steps weren’t bad enough, a lot of people then repeat the entire process,” Kraus says. “They return to their unrealistic vision, pursue the same strategy without modifying it, and give up when things go badly. That’s why by March, all those gyms and health clubs that filled up with new members in January are pretty much back to normal.”

Benefits of Long-Term Strategy vs. Short-Term Fix

Diane Vives, owner of Vives Training Systems in Austin, Texas, tries to avoid working with clients who have made New Year’s resolutions because their enthusiasm wanes so quickly. “New Year’s resolutions are a short-term fix, not a lifestyle change,” said Vives, a strength and conditioning specialist. “They create a false sense of urgency. People tend to be more successful when they make the decision at some other time of the year.”

To help her clients remain motivated, Vives tries to break down their long-term goals into weekly goals. “For example, if the long-term goal is weight loss, I help them create weekly goals regarding their weight and percentage of body fat. Or maybe we’ll focus on preparing for a 5K race in the community.”

Ultimately, the best advice about getting healthy is, “just do it … and keep doing it.”

“Set well-defined and achievable goals, and then focus on participation rather than performance,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise. “People should make exercise like punching a clock — they should focus on doing things on a regular basis. Don’t worry about reaching your target heart rate. Just focus on doing so many minutes of exercise a day for 30 consecutive days. Develop the habit of being physically active, and then readjust your efforts.”

And if you need more motivation, Kraus suggests the technique known as the deposit and refund method. “Give a good friend $500,” he says. “That’s the deposit. Then have the friend refund the money at the rate of, say, $50 for every pound you lose, or $5 for every visit to the gym. That way you reward your own progress and make instant gratification work for you.”

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Winter Sports Injury Prevention

People spend hours of winter recreation time on activities ranging from sledding, snow skiing and tobogganing to ice hockey, ice-skating and snowboarding. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), however, if the proper precautions are not taken to ensure warmth and safety, severe injuries can occur.

Winter sports injuries get a lot of attention at hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics. Injuries include sprains and strains, dislocations and fractures. In an average season, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported:

  • 139,332 injuries from snow skiing
  • 164,002 injuries from snow boarding
  • 133,551 injuries from ice skating
  • 53,273 injuries from ice hockey
  • 160,020 injuries from sledding, snow tubing, and tobogganing
  • 34,562 injuries from snowmobiling

Many winter sports injuries happen at the end of the day, when people overexert themselves to finish that one last run before the day’s end. A majority of these injuries can easily be prevented if participants prepare for their sport by keeping in good physical condition, staying alert and stopping when they are tired or in pain.

The AAOS urges children and adults to follow these simple tips for preventing winter sports injuries:

  • Never participate alone in a winter sport.
  • Keep in shape and condition muscles before participating in winter activities.
  • Warm up thoroughly before playing. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
  • Check that equipment is in good working order and used properly.
  • Wear several layers of light, loose and water- and wind-resistant clothing for warmth and protection. Layering allows you to accommodate your body’s constantly changing temperature. Wear proper footwear that provides warmth and dryness, as well as ample ankle support.
  • Know and abide by all rules of the sport in which you are participating.
  • Take a lesson (or several) from a qualified instructor, especially in sports like skiing and snowboarding. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce the risk of injury.
  • Pay attention to warnings about upcoming storms and severe drops in temperature to ensure safety.
  • Seek shelter and medical attention immediately if you, or anyone with you, is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite. Make sure everyone is aware of proper procedures for getting help if injuries occur.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after activities.
  • Avoid participating in sports when you are in pain or exhausted.

Life-Saving Screening Greatly Reduces Cervical Cancer Deaths

Resolutions abound in the New Year, and having recommended health screenings should be a priority. January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and a prime time to highlight the importance of routine Pap tests. Raising awareness among women is especially important because life-saving tests are readily available and, when caught early, cervical cancer can be successfully treated.

Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and follow-up. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if not treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.

It’s important to remember that cervical cancer is a preventable disease, “as long as it’s caught early enough,” said NCCC Executive Director Sarina Araujo.

In fact, when cervical cancer is found early, it is highly treatable and associated with long survival and good quality of life. Unfortunately, six out of 10 cervical cancers occur in women who have never received a Pap test or have not been tested in the past five years.

This problem is especially pronounced among women with disabilities. Research shows that women with disabilities are less likely to get Pap tests than women without disabilities. In addition, healthcare facilities may be inaccessible and ill equipped to serve people with disabilities, so preventive services like Pap smears are often overlooked.

Public education and outreach are key to promoting good cervical health for all women, and eliminating screening disparities for women with disabilities. For more information and to learn how you can help during Cervical Health Awareness Month, visit the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) .

Why Establish a Workplace Health Program?

Changes in the pace of work and stress levels experienced by employees, combined with the rising cost of health care and benefits, have convinced many employers that investing in employee wellness makes good business sense. This month, we take a look at wellness activities from our northern neighbor. Statistics Canada reports that an estimated $12 billion is lost to workplace absenteeism each year.  Stress, smoking, the inability to balance work and family, and feelings of loss of control over workplace schedules and environments are some of the major health issues facing today’s workforce.

Two-thirds of Canadians over age 15 are employees and, on average, they spend about 60 percent of their waking hours at work. Therefore, the social and physical workplace environment can have a significant impact on health. Research shows that most employees believe the workplace is an appropriate and effective place to promote health and well-being issues. The workplace is also an effective setting for increasing active living because of the potential policy and environmental impact, increased social support, use of mass media and the use of individually based interventions. Other assets of the workplace setting are the size and stability of the target population, the lack of time and travel barriers to participation, peer pressure and peer support, and a “captive” audience.

The workplace also has previously established channels of communication, existing support networks and opportunities to develop corporate norms of behavior.

Not only is the workplace viewed as an effective place to promote health, it is increasingly recognized that the environment at work influences health. The health of employees, in turn, influences productivity, and ultimately, an organization’s bottom line. Evidence suggests a significant return on health and wellness investment for Canadian businesses. For example:

  • In the first six months of the Metro Fit program in Toronto, active municipal employees missed 3.5 fewer days than employees not in the program;
  • BC Hydro employees enrolled in their fitness program had a turnover rate of 3.5 percent compared to a company average of 10.3 percent;
  • The Canadian Life Assurance Company found that the turnover rate for fitness program participants was 32.4 percent lower than average over seven years; and
  • A Canada Life study found a return of $1.95 to $3.75 per employee per dollar spent on corporate wellness programs.