Physician’s top tips for starting 2021 on a healthy foot

Many of us started 2020 with resolutions and looking forward to the year ahead. Well, we all know 2020 just wasn’t what we thought it would be. After a year of uncertainty and stress, it is time to focus on the positives and plan for a healthy and happy you in 2021. As we kick off the New Year, let’s write down our resolutions and try to make them a part of a healthy new lifestyle.

Check in with Your Doctor

If you have been following the stay-at-home guidance strictly, you may have been avoiding your doctor’s office. Now is the time to reestablish that connection. By avoiding your doctor, you may be safe from contact with others, but you could be putting your health at risk.

Providers are doing everything necessary to protect you and our staff from COVID-19. As we start the New Year, it is good to establish new health goals with your primary care physician. Schedule your annual well-visit and have a discussion with your doctor about changes in your health, preventive care, or screenings that may be appropriate. You can also discuss your regular vaccinations as well as the COVID-19 vaccine so that you can make an informed decision when the time comes. A productive well-visit helps you get ready to live up to your healthy lifestyle resolutions.

Get moving

A resolution of going to the gym five days a week or running a marathon in the spring may not be feasible, so make a realistic goal to move more. Here are some ideas to add more movement to your life:

  • Park in the back of the parking lot when you go shopping. Just a few extra steps can help you stay healthy.
  • Always choose the stairs. After all, who wants to be in a crowded elevator right now? 
  • Get outside and walk around your block or your neighborhood every day. If you walk regularly, pick up the pace and get your heart pumping a little faster. It will help you build muscle and burn more calories.
  • Join an online exercise class. COVID-19 has made exercising at home even easier. Now you have your choice of classes you can join from your living room, including yoga, spin, and strength classes.
  • Stretch as soon as you wake up in the morning. Getting your blood flowing when you wake up can set the tone for the entire day. It can also increase your flexibility, a key sign of good health.

Improve your diet

You may have found yourself stress eating more than you would have liked this year. The New Year is a great time to start new routines, and your diet should be one of the top changes you make. Follow these tips to update your food choices:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. The recommended amount of fruits and vegetables is five to nine servings a day. Although that seems like a lot of food, it keeps you full and may help you avoid junk food cravings. 
  • Watch your salt intake. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 mg of sodium a day. You should throw out your salt shaker as sodium is already found in many of the foods we eat every day.
  • Shop on the perimeter of a grocery store. You will find all of your healthy, whole foods on the outer isles of the store. Avoid the processed foods that fill the interior isles.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption. You may have indulged during the stay-at-home orders, but it’s time to give your body a break. Maybe try the sober January trend. Alcohol is a contributing factor to heart disease, cancer, and a host of other illnesses.

Not sure where to start? Your primary care doctor or a dietitian can help you create a diet that is right for you and your health goals.

Make social connections

The anxiety and isolation of 2020 may have taken a toll on your mental health. Social connections are a big part of being happy and healthy. Although being more social may have never been on your resolution list, it is a good idea to consider it this year. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t lose the virtual connections you made this past year. If you started Zoom calling with cousins or long-lost relatives in 2020, keep it up in the coming year. 
  • Schedule outdoor exercise with a friend. Make sure you follow all the state regulations but don’t just get out and walk alone. Find a friend, put on a mask, socially distance, and get outside.
  • Focus on friends that may be struggling. If you know a friend that is having a difficult time or has distanced themselves from everyone, schedule time to check in. Until the vaccine is distributed fully, you may need to schedule front porch visits or virtual meetups but reach out and make a connection.

Here’s to the New Year

As you get into your new routine for health in 2021, don’t forget you aren’t alone. Your primary care doctor is there to help you.  If you haven’t seen a primary care doctor in more than two years, don’t let another year go by without scheduling an appointment. If you don’t have a primary care provider, it’s easy to find one in your community through a simple web search or by asking a friend.

Sarah McElroy, DO, is a primary care physician and sees patients at Family Medicine at Lock Haven, 610 High St., Lock Haven. To schedule an appointment with Dr. McElroy, call 570-748-1250. To learn more about Primary Care at UPMC, visit


  • On the PULSE

    On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.

On the PULSE

On the PULSE is an online media outlet in Northcentral, Pennsylvania. We specialize in in-depth journalism, human interest content and video features. Our mission is to build engagement in community through local news.