The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 18, 2013

Speaking of Health: Planning a healthy start to 2014

Set goals, make a plan to get healthy

By Stephen Campbell

---- — With 2014 edging nearer, it’s time to create your New Year’s resolutions, which might include tobacco cessation, stress reduction, increased fitness or a weight-loss goal. Remember to speak with your primary health care provider before significantly changing your daily health and fitness routine, especially if you have chronic health issues.

Secret to success

New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, but not so easy to achieve. The key to success lies in developing a structured health plan, also known as a wellness plan. The health plan will outline:

• Where you’re headed.

• Why you want to get there.

• What challenges you may face along the way.

• How you plan to work through the challenges.

1. Create a health vision. It’s critical to clearly visualize your goals. The first step is to create a health vision, which is a powerful, broad statement that describes who you want to be once you have met those goals. Think about a healthy future and what that might look like to you. Convert those thoughts into a short, clear statement – your health vision.

While there are many ways to write a health vision, one popular format is: “I want ______, so that ________.” Examples include:

• “I want to lose weight, so that I have more energy to enjoy life.”

• “I want to be physically fit, so that I am no longer out of breath.”

• “I want to have better balance between work and my personal life, so that I have more quality time for myself and for my family.”

2. Identify your motivators. After you compose a health vision that you feel confident you can attain, determine which motivators will drive your desire to make those changes. Some common motivators are:

• Buying clothes in smaller sizes.

• Having energy to play with your children.

• Watching your grandchildren grow up.

• Reducing high blood pressure medication.

3. Accept challenges and work on strategies. Nearly everyone will face challenges during their health journey that could interfere with realizing established goals. Challenges might include a busy family life, work, school, medical issues or peer pressure to continue bad habits. It’s important to identify potential challenges and envision strategies to address them as part of an effective health plan.

4. Set SMART goals. Goals help keep you focused on your health vision. Achieving identified goals produces a feeling of accomplishment and much-needed motivation to fuel your health journey. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-framed.

• Specific: What am I going to do?

• Measurable: How will I track my progress?

• Achievable: What steps will I take to make this happen?

• Relevant: Is this important enough to me to want to do it?

• Time-framed: When will I do this?

Your SMART goals should consist of both long-term and short-term goals. Establish your long-term goal first.

An example of a long-term goal is, “I will walk briskly for 30 minutes a day at least five days a week.” However, if you haven’t been exercising on a regular basis, there is often a need for intermediary, short-term goals. For example, “I will walk 15 minutes during my lunch hour at least three days each week for the next month.” After reaching your short-term goal, extend your efforts gradually, until you ultimately accomplish your long-term goal.

Don’t give up

It can be difficult to make changes to your lifestyle, so ensure you have a network of family and friends to encourage and partner with you during your health journey. Additionally, consider keeping a health journal to record your activities and achievements, adding to your motivation and accountability.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle is an ongoing, dynamic process. Creating a health plan, engaging your support system and celebrating short-term and long-term successes are positive behaviors that will deliver benefits this year and beyond. Use this New Year’s celebration as an opportunity to begin the journey of living a healthier life.

Stephen Campbell, M.D., is a Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician. For more information, please go to

Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.