OBLIGATORY NEW YEAR'S NAG - Are you healthy? Are you fit?

Here it is, the New Year (almost), and have you made your resolution to change your lifestyle in order to accommodate something healthier and fitter? If you have, then good for you. If you haven't - why not?

Whether you're a serious athlete, a couch potato or any of us who stand between those two extremes, it pays to be more attentive throughout the year to your health and wellness. But remember: there's more to fitness than training in the gym or participating in high-action sports. One clue to fulfilling your goal of a healthier lifestyle is to choose objectives that are attainable. Like eating right when you're on the run.

Eating well keeps you healthy, wealthy and wise and helps your body withstand stress. In a hurry? Don't grab and go - spend a second considering your choices. Frequently business and pleasure travelers have known this for years. Whenever possible, opt for eateries with diverse menus while avoiding the pit-falls of all-you-can-eat. And stay away from huge servings.

On the Pritikan diet? Don't get lazy, "just this once," but stick to it. Flying? Preorder airplane meals. Spending too much time at fast-food joints? Scope out the soup and salads. Look for other low-cal options like baked potatoes, yogurt or fruit with granola. There's no need to punish yourself with greasy burgers and fries unless you really want to.

The start of a new year is a time of stress. Some of it carries over from the holiday season, but a lot of it comes from the heightened expectations associated with turning the calendar page. Sometimes we feel surrounded by stressful situations, so why not try to manage the stress instead of falling prey to it?

Stress is caused, to no small degree, by the feeling we have that everything must be done but there isn't enough time to do it all or do it well. The cure is simple. Learn to say No. Accept that only Clark Kent is Superman and the rest of us are mere mortals. Focus on what's important to you and what you're convinced you can do well. Along with this, pare down extracurricular activities and emphasize a little quiet time. Try getting to bed early once a week, and be amazed at how much better you feel.

Staying active is a good way to stay healthy. But if you're a few decades past college age, you're undoubtedly feeling the effect of the years doing a dogpile on your bones. You'll never be any younger than you are today! The trouble is, we often refuse to believe we can't do today what we did yesterday. Therefore, it's wise to follow a few easy rules to avoid injury before running that marathon or doing the complete Ski-to-Sea race by yourself.

Warm up before activities by doing some stretching exercises. A little yoga will maintain limber muscles and connective tissue. Work a little with weights to strengthen muscles and build stamina. Shed a few pounds by changing your diet.

You see? A healthy and fit lifestyle shouldn't be that difficult to achieve as long as there are reasonable goals and objectives. Now: are you ready to make a few doable New Year's resolutions?

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