LIVING
01/02/2014 04:03 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 08:17 EST

Health Resolutions: 11 Goals That Actually Work

Leander Baerenz via Getty Images

The beginning of a new year often means the beginning of a new resolution, and for a lot of us, it's about our health. But setting yourself resolutions for "health" are often too vague or over-ambitious, and fizzle out before you really start to see results.

So why not make a resolution that will actually improve your health overall? Some resolutions are measurable, or able to be gradually added into your daily routine, making them much more attainable than the typical "lose weight" or "eat more healthfully" promises you keep making to yourself.

We've pulled together some modified health resolutions that will leave you healthier, leaner and even feeling younger at the end of 2014. And instead of attempting to do them all at once, pick one or two and get busy. Good luck!

LOOK — 11 health resolutions that work:

Photo gallery 11 Health Resolutions To Try In 2014 See Gallery

Or follow us on Twitter

Eat More Fibre

Current Canadian guidelines advise that adults should eat 26 to 35 grams of fibre each day. But on average, most people get only 4.5 to 11 grams a day. Fibre can affect your health in a variety of ways: it can increase satiety, which can reduce overeating, it can help your blood pressure stay steady, it may improve heart health by lowering cholesterol, it helps you poop, and may even prevent cancer. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all fibre-rich foods that you can include in your diet this year.

Look For Fruits And Veggies

Most people don't get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet each day. In 2007, the CDC found that only 11 per cent of Americans met the recommended intake goals for both fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables can help you lose weight because they are nutrient dense and low calorie. Meeting the recommended intake of seven to 10 servings of both each day can improve your health by reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancers, and reduce your risk of diverticulitis.

Lose 10 Per cent Of Your Body Weight

Whatever your weight loss goal is this year, just starting with the basics can help your overall health. Studies have shown that for those who are overweight, losing 10 per cent of your body weight can improve your health by lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as reducing your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Quit Smoking

We know it's obvious, but cutting out the cigarettes is a proven way to improve your health, both within minutes and in the long term. The CDC describes smoking as "the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States," and it takes many lives here in Canada as well. Just 20 minutes after quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure are down, and a year after quitting, a former smoker's risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker.

Reduce Your Waist Circumference

It's not a measurement as closely watched as weight or BMI, but your waist circumference is an important number for your overall health. Your risk of heart disease and diabetes increases if your waist circumference is more than 35 inches for a woman or 40 inches for a man. What can you do if yours puts you at risk? You can't spot reduce, and some people naturally carry more weight around their middle, but overall weight loss and toning your body can help you reduce your waist circumference.

Find Time To Exercise

You don't have to spend hours at the gym to make a dent in your health. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, which can be done all at once or in shorter chunks of time. That means that even a 10-minute walk can be beneficial. Exercise isn't just good for your body, but it can also help reduce stress.

Meditate

You don't have to be in a spa or on vacation to meditate — it's something that can be done in a few minutes in your office or at home. One study found meditation helped reduce symptoms of clinical depression, while another showed that meditating could improve memory.

Invest In A Pet

This is actually somewhat easy. Studies show spending time with a pet can reduce stress and lower blood pressure while increasing your mood. And if you can't have your own pet at home, consider volunteering at a shelter.

More Snooze Time

The health consequences of poor sleep are serious. Sleep deprivation is a factor in many accidents, at work and otherwise, and can affect your ability to think critically. Over time, it can also increase your risk of heart problems, including heart attack and stroke, as well as diabetes. You can improve your sleep by making sure you get enough. Go to bed at a reasonable hour that allows you to get at least eight hours, avoid caffeine at night, and make sure your room is as dark as possible. If this doesn't work, stick to a schedule of going to bed and waking up that is as consistent as possible — yes, even on weekends.

Go To The Doctor

Avoiding that annual physical? Don't let it happen in 2014. Seeing a doctor regularly can help you stay on track with all of these others goals, and can give you more details on your current state of health. Make an appointment today.

Visit The Dentist

Surprised? The effects of our dental health on the wellness of our entire body are often overlooked. Gum disease, if left untreated, can lead to lung issues when bacteria from plaque travel to the respiratory system. There is also a link between diabetes and gum disease, where the latter can increase complications with the former. And it's believed that gum disease can also ultimately affect heart health. Keep your mouth healthy by challenging yourself to brush and floss daily (if you already don't), and seeing your dentist for regular checkups.