How to keep those new year health resolutions

Mo Farrah after missing out on a gold medal
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With 2012 now here, many of us will be making resolutions.

For a lot of people, these will revolve around improving our health, especially after the excesses we may have enjoyed over Christmas.

But while resolutions are made with the best of intentions, it can be easy to fail early on and become despondent.

Here are some tips on how to succeed at keeping some of the more common new year resolutions.

· Quitting smoking

While it can be difficult, quitting smoking has real benefits to your health. As well as reducing your risk of getting cancer, heart or lung disease, it reduces the exposure of those around you to second-hand smoke.

There are other practical benefits too. You can potentially save hundreds of pounds a month and stop your clothes and hair from smelling of stale tobacco.

When trying to quit, it is important to think how you will handle tempting situations, such as going to the pub or being with friends who smoke.

If you don’t think you can quit on willpower alone, nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or chewing gums, can help you cut down gradually.

Services such as the NHS’s Smokefree can offer guidance on the whole quitting process to keep you on track. Ask your GP for advice.

· Eating more healthily

Many of us will want to lose some weight but it is important to do this in a safe and healthy way.

The best way to achieve this is through realistic and sustainable changes to your diet.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important, as well as cutting portion sizes.

If you are used to having sweets, crisps or chocolate as a snack, try swapping this for a piece of fruit.

Drinks can also be high in calories, so look to swap sugary, fizzy beverages with water or juices, for example.

Often we feel hungry because we haven’t had enough to drink, so drink plenty of water to avoid this.

Making sure you eat your five portions of fruit and vegetables per day will also help to keep you healthy.

· Getting more exercise

Alongside eating more healthily, getting more exercise is a great way to lose weight.

While it can be hard to fit exercise into our busy schedules, little changes can go a long way. Those who work all day could look to cycle or walk part or all of the way to walk, or perhaps park the car a bit further from work to walk in. Using the stairs instead of the lift and going for a walk or run at lunchtime can also help contribute to your recommended daily amount of exercise.

Joining the gym, going for a swim, or even heavy gardening or washing the car will also help towards daily exercise targets. A brisk evening walk can help fitness levels as well as helping you to relax at the end of the day.

· Cutting down on alcohol

Many of us will raise our alcohol consumption over Christmas but cutting down the amount you drink has many benefits, such as helping with weight loss, lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of liver and kidney disease.

Government guidelines advise that men should not drink more than three to four units of alcohol a day, and women no more than two to three units. As a guide, a large glass of wine contains about three units with a pint of four per cent lager containing 2.3 units.

One of the best ways to cut down is gradually, by reducing the amount or the size of the drinks you have. If you are going out, set yourself a budget or plan how many drinks you will have before you start drinking. Remember to let your friends and family know you are cutting down, as they could be a good source of support.

Information and further tips on all of the above are available on the NHS Choices website (nhs.uk).

Good luck!