Kick Start Your New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s health resolutions don’t have to disappear like the snow in a mid-winter thaw. There are ways to make them stick for the whole year – and maybe for a lifetime.

yoga pose

Start by making realistic resolutions – minor lifestyle changes that can have major influences on how you feel, advises Deb Mareb, owner and instructor at Yoga of Yarmouth Port. Instead of jumping into the latest fad diet or some new, high-intensity exercise regimen, she recommends trying something simple that brings you happiness. That can mean getting outdoors each day to enjoy nature, walking your dog every morning, or just putting down the cell phone and creating the space and time to relax.

Mareb, who has been a social worker and fitness instructor and also works as a wellness coach for cancer survivors, says she was drawn to yoga because it provides a balance of physical exercise and emotional health.

“I’ve seen a lot of people who are really physically fit, and not doing well mentally. And I’ve seen people who are mentally healthy but not physically fit,” she said in a telephone interview. “So, for me, I feel like it’s important to find a way to achieve a balance.”

yoga class

Mareb says she opened her studio to do just that – and to help others find a way to get through the flow of life …. “where today it’s really amazing and tomorrow your phone might ring in, and it’s not so amazing.”

“I want my studio to be successful, and I want people to come here,” she said. “But really, when you leave here, I want it to have an impact on your life.”

If you can’t visit Mareb’s studio, there are still ways to make yourself feel better, she said, citing one simple exercise that can be done almost anywhere and at any time of the day. It only takes a few minutes – enough time for 10 deep breaths – and you can practice it several times a day to ease stress.

meditating at the beach

Start by sitting down and closing your eyes, she said. Then take a deep breath, inhaling through your nose. Hold it for a few seconds before exhaling through your nose, while thinking consciously about the breath. Repeat the pattern for 10 breaths in all, counting on your fingers as you go. As you think about your breathing, the clutter of worrisome thoughts will disappear because your mind can only hold one thought at a time, she explained.

“Even if your mind is going from one thing to another really quickly, it still can only take in one thing at a time. So if you’re saying ‘inhale,’ right there, you’ve already quieted down. You’ve already gotten rid of the other 4,000 things on your mind.” Find more information on classes, instructors and facilities at the Yoga of Yarmouth Port website.

If you prefer the structure, equipment and social interaction of a fitness center, you should still find a way to make your exercise sessions enjoyable.

fitness class

Rebecca Terkelsen, fitness director, group trainer and Pilates instructor at the Mid-Cape Athletic Club on White’s Path in Yarmouth, suggests starting out with something that allows you to move at your own pace – like yoga or a Zumba group dance class, which will get you moving and having fun. She also recommends finding a friend or partner to share in your fitness goals so you can go to the gym together.

It’s less intimidating than working out alone, and it strengthens the commitment – both to your partner and to your exercise routine, she said.

couple playing tennis

A good working example of that friendship and commitment can be found at Mid-Cape Athletic Club’s tennis program, which draws friends together and gets them playing tennis, making their exercise regimen seem less like exercise and more like fun, she explained.

The club features classes in everything from yoga to high-intensity kick boxing, Terkelsen says, along with resistance training and cardiac machines. The best way to choose which exercise is best for you is to meet with a fitness counselor before starting your program, a service that she says is available with memberships.

More information on programs, facilities and pricing is available at Mid-Cape Athletic Club’s website.

Even small amounts of physical exercise can bring noticeable health benefits, according to the latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For substantial health benefits, adults should perform 30 minutes to an hour of exercise at least five days per week, the guidelines say. Find more about the report at the Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans website.

Andy Tomolonis is a nonfiction author, travel writer and multimedia journalist.