Start the New Year off on the right foot with these four essential health tips.

If the past year has taught us anything, it is how important maintaining our health can be. With COVID-19 infections still reaching record levels and the New Year beginning, now is an excellent opportunity to pause and reflect on how we can make health and wellness a top priority.

Just making four key commitments can set you up for a successful year ahead when it comes to your health. These commitments include being COVID-smart, including a fitness regimen, incorporating diet and nutrition, and seeing your healthcare provider.

COVID-19 remains a threat

The coronavirus continues to dominate headlines as the pandemic continues to pose grave threats, especially for those in at-risk groups.

As we enter the New Year, everyone must continue to practice safety measures. In addition to social distancing, wearing a face-covering while in public or when around others from outside your household is an easy and critical measure to protect yourself and others.

Additionally, frequent handwashing, especially after coughing or sneezing, caring for sick people, or after handling animals, can help reduce the spread of germs, viruses, and other illnesses.

While a couple of vaccines have either been approved or are in the process of being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), widespread availability is not likely for a few months. In the meantime, to protect yourself from COVID-19, all the protective measures that have been all too common for nearly a year are still encouraged.

Get moving

Studies show that more than 60 percent of all adults are not active, and half of the teenagers in the U.S. lead a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of fitness can have many negative health consequences, including heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, depression, and moodiness.

People of all ages and physical conditions can benefit from regular physical activity. Children, teenagers, seniors, even people with disabilities will find they feel, think, and look better with just a little physical activity.

A well-balanced fitness program should focus on all aspects of your body, no matter your abilities. Cardio, strength training, and core fitness routines should be integrated.

Make smarter decisions when it comes to nutrition

Proper nutrition provides you with the essential vitamins, protein, and energy levels necessary to live and function.

Knowing what to eat and how to portion your meals is vital. If you are unsure if your diet is up-to-par with what it should be, we encourage you to talk with your primary care physician during your next appointment.

The Internet is filled with many resources to help create delicious – and simple – meals that are healthy and nutritious. Not too comfortable with cooking, but are still interested in creating healthy meals? YouTube can be an incredible resource with free cooking videos based on your interests.

More importantly, removing “junk food” from your home is a great way to start the New Year. Discarding candies, chips, soft drinks, and other wrong food items can help curb your urge to reach for unhealthy snack options. In lieu, consider picking up more fruits, vegetable sticks, and other healthy snack options.

Do not forget about preventative healthcare

Many people put off visiting with their primary healthcare provider over the last 10 months because of COVID-19 fears. Now, more than ever, staying on top of your health is crucial.

If you do not remember the last time you visited your primary care provider for an annual physical, then you are past due. These comprehensive assessments are imperative to ensure you remain in the best health possible.

Besides the physical checkups, your medical provider will typically request several lab screenings to check for things such as your blood glucose and cholesterol levels and ensure you are up to date on essential immunizations. Depending on your age, gender, and risk levels, cancer screenings might also be ordered as a preventative measure.

Most lab work and routine cancer screenings can be completed locally at Faith Community Health System’s in-house clinical laboratory and imaging departments, handling most physician requests.

Annual checkups are covered by Medicare and most private insurance providers with no co-pay.