Small changes can help you live a healthier lifestyle

Women jogging --- Image by ¬© Steve Hix/Somos Images/Corbis(BPT) – A new year often brings with it the desire to make improvements in your life, and kick old habits to the curb in the pursuit of healthiness. But for most Americans, resolutions fail within the first few months because goals are too ambitious, intimidating or unrealistic in nature. If you’ve resolved to be healthier this year, the good news is that successful, positive change – whether it be spending more time with friends and family, being more physically active, or choosing healthier foods – is more achievable than you think. It’s important to think positively, stay focused, and take baby steps versus one giant leap towards a lofty goal.

Many goal-setters achieve their desired health goal by starting with small changes. In fact, more than half the respondents to the Aetna “what’s your healthy?” survey like to do small things such as taking the stairs instead of using the elevator each day to be more physically active.

The approach to healthiness is a personal one and is not a “one size fits all” solution. To help inspire you to achieve your health goals this year, Alison Sweeney, an actress, author, television host and mother of two, offers her tips on simple changes you can make to your day-to-day life to ensure happiness and healthiness year-long:

* 100-calorie snacks. Thirty-three percent of respondents to the Aetna “what’s your healthy?” survey say they could, in an instant, drop eating large portions in order to become healthier. While it can be difficult to just start eating less than you are used to, you can set yourself up for success with 100-calorie snacks. A handful of almonds, homemade ranch dip with vegetables, or six cups of fresh-popped popcorn are all great low-calorie options to take on the go.

* Run your first race. Determined to run your first race in 2014? Here’s a secret to getting started: run walks. Alternating between running and walking quickly builds up your endurance and confidence – a great way to train and get fit. Start with 20 minutes a day, three times a week. During the cold winter months when you can’t get outside, try walking or running wherever you can – whether it is on a treadmill, taking the stairs more, or even parking further away when you are shopping. Increasing your physical activity in any way possible will definitely help toward your fitness goal.

* Strike a child’s pose. Many people take yoga classes to help them decompress and get in some exercise. You can also try it at home with the kids. This allows everyone to release extra energy, handle frustration or just relax, which is especially good right before bed. Deep breathing is the key. Try a child’s pose, which is a resting pose in the fetal position. The family gets to cool down together, making bedtime calmer for everyone.

* Eating clean. Many people probably included “eat clean” on their list of New Year’s resolutions. Ready to make the change, but not sure where to start? When you’re at the market, avoid the middle aisles where you’ll find most of the processed, packaged foods with artificial ingredients. Instead, shop the perimeter of the store for fresh foods like seasonal produce and lean meats.

* Get your exergame on. It’s often hard to squeeze in both “me time” and “family time” when you have a busy day, and especially when you want to stay fit to boot – 18 percent of respondents to Aetna’s “what’s your healthy?” survey cite family demands as a reason for not having time to be physically active. “Exergaming” (short for exercise gaming) is a great way to work out alone or with your kids. Grab the kids’ game console and get moving. You can dance, play tennis, and even golf – and get your entire body into it.

Setting health goals does not have to be intimidating. Set yourself up for realistic success with small, fun changes to your lifestyle that will lead to big results. For healthy inspiration and resources to help you achieve your health goals, visit