Make the things you love count

Forget New Year’s resolutions–try this instead
Feb 4, 2019 · Gabrielle Sorto
Couple walking a dog

Each year, people around the world make the resolution to finally get fit. In fact, 45% of surveyed Americans said getting in shape was their goal for 2018. Maybe you can relate. Even with the best intentions, many people drop their commitment to regular exercise and healthy eating before spring arrives. It’s easy to get discouraged when you push yourself to do exercise that you don’t enjoy. Fortunately, being active can take many different forms. Living an active lifestyle doesn’t have to mean doing grueling workouts–you can stay healthy by doing activities you already love. 

Here are six activities Californians love that are fun and good for your health: 

  • Gardening isn’t just a way to improve your home’s curb appeal. It’s actually a full-body workout, as a 2008 study by the American Society for Horticultural Science found. Between shoveling dirt, moving pots, carrying mulch, picking weeds, and everything else that goes into creating and maintaining a garden, your heart and muscles are being put to work in ways they normally aren’t. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found gardeners have a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) and lower odds of having an elevated BMI than non-gardeners.
  • Owning a pet provides physical and mental health benefits. There’s a reason most households in the United States have at least one pet. The bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners, according to the CDC. Owning a dog will help you become more active with little effort on your part. People who regularly walk their dogs are less likely to experience obesity than those who pass off the duty to someone else or don’t own dogs, according to a 2016 study from the National Institute of Health. Pets also reduce stress and make their owners happier people overall

  • Cooking is a great way to have control over what goes into your body. A 2017 study from the University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine found that people who cook at home tend to have healthier diets and spend less on food. Many restaurants serve far larger portions and cook with more fat, salt, and sugar than necessary. Cooking at home allows you to control every ingredient and portion out your meals appropriately. “When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than those who cook less or not at all – even if they are not trying to lose weight,” says Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Cooking has also been found to boost confidence and help with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and addiction.
  • Yoga increases physical strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health. A 2006 study followed seniors who did yoga for six months and found that it improved their mood and quality of life. A 2015 University of Connecticut study found that yoga reduces stress and anxiety through mindfulness, which is a huge part of the practice. Researchers found that people who practiced yoga were also more mindful eaters. Hit up a local yoga class or enjoy a class at home using an app like YogaGlo.
  • Dancing isn’t just a form of exercise; it’s also fun and inclusive. There are many different types of dance, so there is something for people of all ages, skills, and fitness levels. Dancing has been shown to improve memory, promote heart health, and strengthen muscles, balance, and coordination. “A healthy lifestyle is integrating the mind, body, and soul relationship, and dance has all of those characteristics,” Emily Sandow, supervisor of dance physical therapy at NYU Langone’s Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, tells CNN. Dancing can burn more than 200 calories every half hour, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
  • Traveling has been found to provide many health benefits, including a longer life expectancy. A joint study from the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association, found that women who travel at least twice a year have a significantly lower risk of heart attack than those who only travel every six years or less. It also found that men who didn’t take an annual vacation have a 20% higher risk of death and about a 30% greater risk of death from heart disease. Even a quick three-day trip can be effective. There are many wonderful day trips you can take in California. If you’re in San Diego, take a short trip to Palm Springs. In Northern California? Head to wine country for a long weekend. Taking time away from the daily grind will help you feel refreshed and healthier.

When you take the pressure off yourself to make resolutions that require a lot of sacrifice, you can spend more of your energy enjoying life. Living a full, healthy, and happy life doesn’t come from resolutions anyway. Instead, you build that life one day and one healthy activity at a time.