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Make 2014 your year of fitness

Kimberly Garrison's 10 tips to help you stick to your fitness resolutions in 2014.

AT MIDNIGHT tomorrow, countless Philadelphians will resolve to lose weight, get serious about exercising or give up a bad habit that harms their health - whether it's doughnuts or stress or cigarettes.

Did a poor plan, lack of motivation or insufficient willpower prevent you from realizing your health and fitness resolutions last year?

That's OK. The new year brings a clean slate, a fresh chance, another opportunity. I know it sounds trite, but perseverance is the key to reaching any fitness goal. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then try again, again.

Regular readers of my "Workout Wednesday" page already know the big three resolutions to make if they want to get fit for 2014:

* Pay close attention to calories and portions.

* Favor home-cooked lean proteins, veggies, fruits and whole grains over processed junk.

* Find a physical activity you love and do it regularly.

And, obviously, for those who smoke, the single best thing you can do for your health (and your family's health) is to quit. The website has state-of-the-art advice and free counseling (and free nicotine patches) that will improve your odds of success - by a lot.

Here are 10 ancillary resolutions for great health and well-being. If you're looking to shake things up a little for 2014, resolve to consider these, too:

1. Eat when you're actually hungry. How many times have you failed to lose weight and keep it off using some fad diet regimen? This year, consider following your instincts and eating sensibly on your own schedule.

First, learn to recognize what hungry feels like. Eat before your stomach is growing - at the point where an ounce of nuts and a glass of water is not quite enough to tide you over. Eat slowly and stop before you feel "full," since your brain needs 20 minutes to catch up to the fact that your tummy is satisfied.

I find that some of my clients are happier with four to six minimeals than three larger ones, but it seems to vary, and you'll need to experiment to really get in touch with your appetite. This tactic doesn't work for everyone, but it's fun and interesting to try.

2. Have better sex. For adults who are practicing safe sex, a good romp can be good for your health. A satisfying sex life will lower your blood pressure as well as your risk for heart attacks, relieve stress, improve your sleep, boost your immune system and burn a few calories, too.

3. Add on activities. Going to the gym a couple of times a week is a great start. But to be healthfully active - that is, to be active enough to decrease your risk of illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke - you should be exercising most days of the week.

Walk outdoors, climb stairs, clean your house, get off the bus one stop early, weight-train in your bedroom - just do it!

4. Get a grip on blood pressure. One of 2013's most surprising health reports, from the American Heart Association showed that four weeks of isometric hand grip exercises could decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10 percent. Ask you doctor about this new twist on exercise for heart health. (And note that it is not recommended for people with very high blood pressure - 180/110 or higher).

5. Cut yourself some slack.  Making permanent lifestyle changes is really challenging for most people. So, change things up a little at a time. If you've been inactive for a year or more, start off with small, manageable activities you know you can maintain.

Find a friend and walk around the block after lunch every day. When that feels easy, walk two blocks. Over time you can increase the duration and intensity of the activities you enjoy. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

6. Nap, pray, meditate. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, which is associated with many major diseases. Create some daily rituals and strategies for managing it. A daily cat nap works for some people. Others pray, meditate, practice yoga or do paced breathing. Learn what works for you.

7. Pretend that it's Christmas every day. Several well-documented studies have found that generosity is good for the body as well as the soul. Among other things, being kind and generous can amp up your immune system and decrease pain.

8. Go to church when it's not Christmas. Many studies show that belonging to a tight community - and especially a faith-based community - is good for your health. National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner, who traveled the globe and pored over volumes of research on longevity, reports in his best-seller Blue Zones that participating in a faith-based community four times a month may add four to 14 years to your life.

9. Go on adventures with your kids. Parents: Make 2014 the year to take your children outdoors to hike, fish, ride bikes and maybe even go camping. These special times in the great outdoors teach youngsters to enjoy and value exercise - and you'll all cherish the memories of these times together.

10 Go to the doctor, too. Regular visits to your dentist, eye doctor and family physician are essential to promoting good health. Be sure to get your blood pressure checked and all of your blood work done (blood type, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides), and keep this information on file at home.