Purdue HHS faculty weigh in with tips for a healthy 2024

Two women work out

Purdue students workout inside Lambert Fieldhouse.Tim Brouk

Written by: Tim Brouk, tbrouk@purdue.edu

Even if you’ve already broken — perhaps even shattered — your new year’s resolutions, it’s still not too late to implement new behaviors for a healthy 2024.

Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences faculty and staff were asked to give their top tips for healthy bodies, minds and bank accounts. These new habits will ensure a good year and beyond.

Nutrition Science — Meal and snack prep

Annabel Biruete, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition Science, is a firm believer in meal and snack preparation for the hectic times the spring semester often brings. It also makes the preparer more mindful of what they will be eating for the week.  

“For the winter, I usually do soups,” Biruete said. “It’s a way that you can integrate lots of plant-based foods, such as vegetables and legumes. For snacks, I like to make sandwich bags with nuts, some dried fruit and pieces of semi-dark chocolate.”

Meal preparation also keeps people away from convenience foods such as fast food or candy bars out of a vending machine, which are usually not the best nutrient-dense options.

Financial Resource Management — Emergency savings

Purdue Extension specialist Naomi Bechtold, also an accredited financial counselor, recommended building an emergency savings fund.

“Why? Because life happens,” she stated. “You get a flat tire, and that’s $200. Your hot water heater goes cold; that’s more than $1,000. You slip on the ice and break your arm. Sure, you have health insurance, but do you have the funds to cover the deductible?”

Bechtold advises being realistic with savings goals.

“If you have direct deposit, talk with your bank about creating a savings account and have just $10 per pay period automatically deposited,” she stated. “Shoot for a $400 goal. You can do it! Once you hit that goal, you’ll want to set another.” 

Human Development and Family Science — Show the love

A relationship expert in the Department of Human Development and Family Science, assistant professor Rosie Shrout touted daily displays of love and appreciation for happy romantic relationships in 2024.

“For example, telling your partner or loved one that you love them, hugging them or holding hands, complimenting them, and thanking them,” Shrout said. “Love can be expressed in small ways, even thanking them for doing a chore around the house, telling them that their hair looks great, or hugging each other when either of you get home. These are all great ways to express affection and make someone feel appreciated, valued and cared for.” 

Shrout continued that any goal or resolution should be shared with your partner, family member or friend for accountability and encouragement.

“If the person wants to join you and share the goal, you can engage in activities together, be there for each other, and support each other,” she said. “It can feel vulnerable to put yourself out there, but the support and connection you get in return are so rewarding and often even more effective in helping you achieve your goal.” 

Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences — Don’t bring the noise

Protecting your hearing requires work, vigilance and, of course, avoiding loud noise. Jennifer Simpson, clinical professor in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, stated that people must always use precaution.

“There is no cure for permanent hearing loss, so protect the hearing you have,” she said.

Simpson suggested turning down the volume on the TV, stereo and earbuds. Carry earplugs when in a noisy situation such as a rock concert or if you work in a loud setting, and have your hearing checked by an audiologist regularly.

Psychological Sciences — Mindfulness meditation

Louis Tay, the William C. Byham professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, tells his students being happy and stress-free requires effort. There must be some level of intentionality. One practice that psychologists recommend is mindfulness meditation, which relies on centering yourself in body and mind. It utilizes deep breathing and having a mindset focused on the present moment, instead of a wandering mind.

“Psychologists in general have found mindfulness helpful in reducing stress as well as elevating the sense of well-being and peace,” Tay said.

Nursing — Stay active

Cold temperatures have moved into West Lafayette, but that’s no excuse to become sedentary. Staying active, even at home, can enrich your 2024, even during its most brutally frigid months, according to Vicki Simpson, associate professor in the School of Nursing.

“Items in your home can be used to support exercises such as cans for weights or your stairs for 10-minute bursts of more intense activity,” she said. “Many free exercise programs, which can be done in as few as 20-30 minutes, are available online, including yoga and Pilates.”

If you are adventurous enough to leave your warm, cozy home, Simpson recommended hitting an indoor track for jogging or a mall for walking.

Health Sciences — Don’t vape

While tobacco smoking’s dangers are well documented, Thivanka Muthumalage, assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences, reinforced that vaping is not a healthier alternative.

“Flavored e-cigarettes contain numerous harmful chemicals, carcinogens and heavy metals,” he said. “Nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are highly addictive and become a gateway to other drug use.”

Public Health — Darker the room, better the sleep

Turning out the lights to go to sleep sounds like the easiest thing you will do all night, but in our digital world, various screens, devices and appliances with flashing lights can add up and affect one’s quality of sleep. Michelle Garrison, professor of public health, said leaving your TV on while snoozing will increase the chances of restless sleep.

“Sleeping in a dark room turns out to be really important for healthy sleep,” she continued. “Having a light on during sleep can not only lead to more restless sleep, it’s also linked to increased weight gain and cancer risks. People can be different in how much light is OK for them — for some people, even the little ‘power on’ lights that shine out of our many devices can be too much, and using electrical tape to cover those up can help.”

Fitness — Struggle is GOOD

Patience is something that’s hard to find in 2024, but it must be used when it comes to exercising our bodies, especially if the exercise bike has turned into a coat rack and the freezer is full of Ben & Jerry’s. Jason Chrapek, director of the A.H. Ismail Center for Preventive and Lifestyle Medicine, assured that the body will adjust, even if workouts and a healthy diet are a struggle at first.

“When we hit that ‘resistance’ to change, it’s uncomfortable. Shift your mindset from struggle being a bad thing, to a mindset that struggle is just an opportunity to get better,” he said. “The lessons you learn by intentionally doing things that are difficult will be applicable to every area of your life.”