Happy 2024, everyone!
If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution to improve your health, whether it’s to eat better or start using that gym membership, only to fall into old habits after a few months, weeks or even days, you’re not alone!
We all start with the best of intentions but changing habits is hard at the best of times. For people juggling work, family, and Canada’s winter weather, taking time to exercise, or even eat breakfast before leaving for work can quickly feel like a burden rather than an essential part of taking care of our health.
So here are five tips for how to get a healthy start on your 2024 without going to the gym (or even changing the setting on your alarm clock).
Buy a new toothbrush (and go to the dentist’s)
Our teeth are one of the most overlooked factors in our overall health. Poor oral health doesn’t just give you bad breath, it has also been linked to diseases including diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and some forms of cancer. Healthy teeth also mean we can speak, eat, and smile normally, which helps both our physical and our mental health.
The Government of Canada recommends that we all brush our teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, and floss daily. The Canadian Dental Association recommends that everyone have their teeth checked by a dentist every six months to catch small problems early, so if you have a dentist and it’s been more than six months since your last appointment, book an appointment.
However, dental care is also one of the biggest healthcare expenses for most Canadians, particularly for people and families not covered by a health insurance plan that covers dental care. In 2024, the Government of Canada is rolling out the Canadian Dental Benefit to cover the most basic dentistry costs for uninsured Canadians with a household income under $90,000. To learn if you or a member of your family qualifies for the Canadian Dental Benefit, visit Canadian Dental Care Plan – Canada.ca.
Get a check-up
While most healthy adults do not actually need an annual physical, older adults or anyone living with a chronic health condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or poor mental health, should see their doctor or healthcare practitioner regularly. Women and transgender men who have a cervix, are 21 or older, and are or have been sexually active should also get a Pap test once every three years to screen for cervical cancer. Older adults may also need to see their doctor more regularly for routine screening for cancer and other age-related conditions. In particularly,
Sexually active people should also consider making an annual test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) part of their routine healthcare, particularly if they have had more than one partner or sex (including oral sex) without a condom. Visit Sexual Health Ontario for more information on STIs, as well as a list of sexual health clinics across Ontario.
For help finding a doctor or a nurse practitioner in Ontario visit: Find a doctor or nurse practitioner | ontario.ca.
This one is harder. We’ve all heard stories of people who make a resolution to start running in January and complete their first half-marathon in June. For most people, trying to transform from no exercise to gym rat over a couple of weeks can be discouraging, and over-exercising or trying to do intensive exercise (like weightlifting) without proper training and supervision can lead to injuries, leaving people less active than before. The cost of gym memberships and lack of access to public recreational spaces for people in rural and remote areas of the province can also be barriers to becoming more active for many Ontarians.
If you’re not someone who exercises regularly right now, adding any amount of physical activity can bring some health benefits. But before you pay for a gym membership you may not use, consider starting small and working your way to up to longer and more intensive physical activities. For example, if you commute to work or school, consider getting off the bus or streetcar a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way, or parking farther away from the entrance to the building. If winter weather makes walking outside unsafe or unappealing for you, even a circuit around the floor of your building will help get the blood pumping and make you feel better.
Get your shots
Staying up to date on your shots is still the best way to keep both yourself, your family, and your community healthy over the winter, reducing both your overall chances of getting sick, and the severity of your symptoms if you do get ill.
All Ontarians aged six months and older can get a free flu shot and the most recent COVID-19 vaccine free-of-charge at participating pharmacies, through public health units or the Government of Ontario’s vaccine booking site. You can also call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007 toll free) from Monday to Friday (excluding holidays) from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.
Be kind to yourself
If you did make a big resolution to be healthier this year, and especially if you already feel like you’ve fallen behind or given up, don’t beat up on yourself. It’s okay if you can’t do everything you planned to do in a given day.
Be kind to yourself. If you didn’t exercise, forgot to pack a lunch, or maybe you had a glass of drink after resolving to have a “dry January”, don’t worry about it. Taking an all-or nothing approach to change can set up unrealistic expectations that are hard to meet. Be patient with yourself—tomorrow is another day. If you missed your walk today, concentrate on remembering to take it tomorrow. Being flexible and compassionate to yourself about your goals can go a long way to meeting them.
Treat living a healthier life as a process and accept that there will be ups and downs, good days and bad days. It’s not weakness to need a break (or a bag of chips) some days.
Happy and healthy New Year from to all from everyone at Federated Health Charities!