New Year. New Goals. New You.
Let’s face it, this past year has been one we would love to forget. Turbulent with uncertainties and challenges, leading many to feel unmotivated, discouraged, and even isolated. The lifestyle changes over the past year — working from home, childcare and schooling concerns, closures of businesses including fitness centres — has led some to put their health on the back burner.
With the start of a new year, resolutions are top of mind and renewed health/fitness goals are on the horizon and within reach. Below are key areas to help kick start your wellness journey with rejuvenated intent for a healthier, happier year ahead.
Resistance Training – Developing lean muscle mass is essential in sculpting a strong, energized body. Load-bearing exercises with machines, free-weights and/or resistance bands is beneficial for athletic performance, everyday functional movements and can contribute to many significant health benefits. When force is applied to muscles and bones, it stimulates them to work harder, adapt and grow stronger. With an increase in skeletal and muscular strength, it may ease conditions like osteoporosis, improve motor function and help in the prevention of injury. Muscle is also metabolically active tissue. As a result, in order to sustain one pound of muscle, the body needs to work much harder, hence, boosting your metabolism and burning calories. Aim for two to three days per week of strength training and include full-body workouts that focus on compound exercises – moves that work multiple muscles at a time.
Cardio Training – Implement aerobic exercise to get the blood pumping and muscles working. With consistent cardiovascular activity, it promotes the active production of nitric oxide, the body’s natural vasodilator that relaxes and expands the arteries. With an increase in blood flow and widening of arterial passageways, it may improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, bad cholesterol, eliminating waste components and regulating blood sugar levels. Additionally, cardio is a great metabolism booster which helps to burn off those unwanted pounds and/or build, sustain lean muscle mass. Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). Consider walking, running, cycling or partaking in an aerobics class.
Mobility Training – Stretch out those muscles for improved flexibility and range of motion. Daily activities and/or mental stress can promote muscular tension and strain, therefore lengthening tight muscles is important to improve circulation and relieve soreness. An increase in blood flow throughout the body will help to deliver nutrients to muscles and organs, thus aiding with injury prevention and daily performance. Implement stretching into your regimen by performing static and dynamic techniques like quadriceps and triceps stretches or walking lunges and jumping jacks – respectively.
Breathe in, Breathe out – Balance the state of your mind by doing one thing that keeps us all alive – breathe. Stress can be a common daily occurrence, and especially with the recent global pandemic disrupting our everyday routines. This may lead to elevated feelings of anxiety generating emotional and physical symptoms. However if there is a constant flow of cortisol, a stress hormone that weakens the immune system, this can lead to wear and tear of the body —aging the heart, shrinking the brain and suppressing sleep. Implement deep breathing techniques to get oxygen flowing throughout the body, activating calming nerves and relaxing the muscles. Deep, slow breathing can also signal your body (and brain) to come out of fight or flight mode. Take relaxed, deep breaths from the belly — exhaling longer than you inhale. Partake in yoga, meditation or tai chi to harness and tame your worries.
Outdoor Therapy – Savour the time you spend outside, as it can generate feelings of happiness and boost wellbeing. Natural spaces offer therapeutic benefits from hearing the peaceful sounds of nature, breathing in fresh air to seeing the awe-inspiring beauty nature has to offer. In fact, eco-therapy is thought to positively affect the brain chemicals linked to mood, easing symptoms of anxiety, depression, even S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder). Boost your mental energy by connecting with Mother Nature every day.
Laugh Out Loud – Laughter is a natural tranquilizer. It stimulates feel-good endorphins that improve mood, elevate self-esteem, and induce feelings of calmness. Being able to see the brighter side of situations may aid to remedy ailments of the body, boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. A good, hearty laugh session also relieves physical tension, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter is indeed the best medicine. Ensure you’re getting a daily dose; listen to a comedic podcast, read the funnies or watch a comedy.
Eat right – Nutrient-dense foods have healing powers that invigorate the body. Include a variety of wholesome foods such as protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and those high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Lean protein, wholesome carbs supply energy and build/repair muscles, tissues, skin and hair. Phytonutrients found in plant foods have anti-inflammatory benefits which fortify the immune system and oxygenate the blood. Eat antioxidant-rich sources such as blueberries, papaya and kale as they may help to defuse free radicals that cause inflammation and promote cellular repair. Heart-healthy Omega-3 foods like wild salmon and flax oil have anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory properties that improve arterial blood flow, reduce clotting and damage of artery walls. Lastly, slay the sweets and processed foods as they can negatively impact blood-sugar levels and increase bad cholesterol in the body.
Eat slow – Take time to dine by chewing slower and longer. This helps to stimulate saliva production so the salivary digestive enzymes can go to work metabolizing food, even before it reaches the stomach. Our appetite is mainly controlled by hormones which signal the feeling of hunger or fullness. If you take time to enjoy your meal, this increases the level of gut hormones responsible for satiety, signalling to the brain you’ve eaten, thereby reducing appetite and calorie intake. In addition, when you eat too fast, you’re swallowing air impeding the break-down process, causing that bloating sensation and hindering your digestion. Try to chew at least 25 times, until food loses its texture. The more work done at the top, the less work done in between and at the bottom!
Eat often – Graze on real, wholesome mini-meals throughout the day. Eating frequently will assist the body to perform at its optimal best, as it’s not working as hard to break down a sizeable meal. The less volume of food, the less chance of discomfort like constipation and bloating. Grazing will also aid in regulating blood sugar, hormones and keeps you satisfied to prevent overeating. Smaller meals will help to boost your metabolism as your body is continually in a state of burning food for fuel, hence, revving-up your metabolism. Stay on track by keeping the right foods in arm’s length. Meal prep is key.
Optimal health and wellness begins with a strong mind and body. Regardless of situational circumstances, your health must take first place before it takes charge of you. Whether you’re looking to lose, maintain weight, build muscle and/or minimize anxiety and stress, it’s important to be purposeful in your day-to-day actions. With a few mindful inclusions through diet, physical activity and meditative practices, you can achieve and sustain a healthy lifestyle, in spite of what’s happening in your life and outside your window.
Rejuvenation Workout Routine:
1) Dynamic Stretching (Pre-workout):
Jumping Jacks – 12-15 reps
Arm Circles – 10 reps per arm
Walking Knee Hugs – 5 reps per leg
2) Full-body Workout:
Perform 2-3 sets x 8-12 reps. Equipment, set of dumbbells.
Push-ups (easier variation, perform on bended knees)
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Dumbbell Back Row
Dumbbell Bicep Curl
3) Static Stretching (Post-workout):
Quad Stretch (20-30 seconds per leg)
Standing Forward Bend (20-30 seconds)
Shoulder Stretch (15 seconds per shoulder)
Overhead Triceps Stretch (15 seconds per arm)
Daniela is a published author, health/fitness coach, and wellness influencer. Her contributions have been featured in top health/fitness publications and she works with reputable brands to promote holistic health through content creation and promotions. In her coaching practice, she provides personalized nutrition and fitness programs. Connect with her at: