Notes from the field: a happy and healthy new year!

happy and healthy new year

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year! Let’s hope that 2021 turns out to be better than 2020.

If there is one thing we should have learned from last year, it is the importance of taking much greater control of our personal wellbeing. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are essential for remaining healthy. We cannot rely on overburdened medical services and miracle vaccines to get everything back to some resemblance of normal. Although they can help mitigate the impact of viruses like Covid-19, not even the greatest doctors and drugs can do much to resolve underlying problems such as growing levels of obesity across the world.

The good news is we now have the ability to monitor our vital health signs using simple apps on our smart phone, smart watch, or fitness tracker. The depth, breadth, and richness of the data these devices can collect and analyze is simply breathtaking. We can learn just about everything we need to know about ourselves, no whether it is how many steps we take in a day, how well we sleep at night, or how much intensive exercise we carry out.

Indeed, the biggest challenge we face now is not so much understanding what kind of condition we are in and the issues we need to address but in acting on the available data. It is one thing to know that you need to lose twenty pounds; it is quite another to find the time and commitment to pound the pavement or grind away on the treadmill.

It is unfortunate that the lockdowns imposed in many countries to control Covid-19 have made taking this step even more difficult for many people. However, even if you live in a small space, there are plenty of simple exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups that you can begin doing while you wait for these restrictions to be relaxed.

The key is to be realistic in your expectations. Rather than set yourself ambitious goals, start small and focus on making sure you do a short and simple exercise session every day so that you can make a habit of it. Once this becomes part of your routine, you can then turn your attention to ramping up the length, intensity, and variety.

happy and healthy new year

When I first started thinking about exercise a couple of years ago, I focused on one simple objective of achieving an average of 10,000 steps a day. As I became more comfortable with the process, I gradually adjusted this upwards to 20,000 and made my first steps in many years on the hiking trail.

At the end of the year, I added a second more tentative goal of hitting an average of forty floors per day through a mixture of hiking and stair climbing. Once I realized my days of intensive international travel were over for a while, I decided that I had no excuse for not pushing myself a little harder. In the middle of the year, I therefore raised the target to an average of 100 floors of the day for the whole year.

happy and healthy new year

At the time I was a little daunted by this new goal. But by leveraging the rituals I had already created of lunchtime stair climbing on weekdays (I am lucky that my office has ten floors) and hiking on weekends I was able to achieve it a month ahead of schedule.

Now that I feel a lot more confident in my ability to execute my current exercise rituals, I feel mentally and physically ready to move on to more demanding upper body exercises this year, including weight-training. As with my step walking and stair climbing objectives, I plan to start small and increase them organically as I become more familiar with the new routines. It is going to be fascinating to see whether the practice matches the theory!

Best of luck with your exercise plans for 2021. Whenever you feel like giving up, remember that if you stick to the ritual the results will come.

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