How to set - and keep - health goals in the new year


5 minutes

21 January 2021

How to set - and keep - healthy goals in the new year cover image

As you say hello to 2021 and reflect on the year that was, you might be faced with a very ambitious question – what is your new year’s resolution?

Well, if your goals include living a healthier lifestyle, you've come to the right place. We've consulted with a Dietitian and an Exercise Physiologist on our Health Services team to get their common tips for goal setting, eating healthy and being physically active - all to set you up for success this year.

Set realistic goals

Before getting started on a new exercise routine or diet, it is important to outline your goals. One key to making them attainable? Start small and be realistic.

Here are some tips from the experts to help you get started:

  • Have a long-term goal - what are you ultimately looking to achieve?
  • Break this down into short-term goals - what are some of the milestones that will indicate you're on the road to success?
  • Consider your timeline and be realistic.
  • Use the SMART goal framework. This means setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related1.

For diet and healthy eating – start new habits rather than stop old ones

It's common to look at your eating habits and point out everything you want to stop doing (such as eating that cheeky afternoon biscuit or sipping on soft drinks) but our experts say it's sometimes easier (and more productive) to start new healthier habits.

Write a list of the new habits you would like to start in your eating routine. Here are some ideas from the experts:

  • Start using wholegrain bread for breakfast
  • Add salad to sandwiches at lunch
  • Pack a piece of fruit each day for afternoon tea
  • Try one new recipe each week
  • Take a drink bottle of water on each outing
  • Sit at the dining table for evening meals.

Changes in diet can be very powerful, but keep in mind they don't have to happen all at once. You might be more successful if you go slow and give yourself time to adjust to change.

Our experts suggest you should take just one of these new habits you would like to start and focus on that habit for 1-2 weeks. If you're mastering it at the end of 1-2 weeks, move on to another goal. If you're still struggling, then you can choose to refine this goal a little further to make it more achievable, keep at it or move on to another goal.

We understand making seemingly small dietary changes and sticking to them long term can make a difference. A study by the NHS Nurses' Health Study showed improvements in diet measured over decades led to better health outcomes in the longer term2.

For exercise – have fun and stay consistent

“I can’t wait to exercise today!” might not be your first thought when you wake up in the morning – but imagine if it was. You’d be unstoppable!

That’s why our Exercise Physiologist recommends finding an activity you enjoy. Be creative with it. Surfing, badminton in the backyard, walking the dog, maybe a treadmill session while you binge on your favourite TV series. Exercise doesn’t have to happen in the gym!

If you can find a way to get 30 minutes of exercise a day that doesn’t fill you with dread, you’re on the right track.

Just like with your other goals, set achievable targets and consider starting small and working up from there.

If you’re new to the fitness scene, social exercise like walks or group fitness sessions can be a great place to start.

The experts say you should work towards making your fitness goals long-term sustained habits, and you’ll likely achieve a lot more than weight loss or stronger muscles. Regular physical activity is recommended to reduce the risk of many health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, some cancers and unhealthy weight gain3.

More ways to stay healthy

Want to mark this year as the one that truly starts you on a path towards a healthier life? Support your health goals in as many ways as you can.

Look after your mental health

Sometimes when focussing on physical health, your mental health can be overlooked. While improving your physical health can help with your mental wellbeing, there are some more specific things you can do to help.

Prevent injury

Changing your exercise routine or jumping into a new sport can be hard on your body, and your risk of injury could be higher than normal as you adjust to it.

Prevention is better than treatment when it comes to your physical health, so it pays to be careful. Here are a few quick tips from the experts:

  • Watch out for common gym injuries and learn how to prevent them.
  • Don’t ignore any other pains, injuries or niggles – get them checked out by a doctor or a physiotherapist.
  • If you’re starting a new sport or exercise routine, consider getting advice on proper form. A physio can help you here as well.
  • If you’re starting a new diet, consider getting advice from a dietitian to make sure you’re making healthy choices for your body and lifestyle.

Get your health covered

There’s nothing like having peace of mind that – no matter what happens – you’ve got health cover you can trust. Your health is one of your most valuable assets, after all. It’s worth investing in.

1 Health Direct - Goal Setting (2020)
2 American Heart Association - Circulation (2018)
3 Department of Health - Physical activity and exercise guidelines for adults (18 to 64 years) (2021)