Need to be motivated to start the week off on a healthy note? Try one or more of three things to start the week off on the right path.

1. Dealing with anxiety, sleeplessness? A weighted blanket may help provide a calming effect. Harvard Medical School reported noted the weighted blanket may provide benefits for people with insomnia and anxiety. While research is still scarce, Harvard also noted the idea of using weighted blankets in medical practices has been around a long time. It can be the same reason people love heavy comforters or pile blankets on at the foot of their bed, preferring to feel the weight as they sleep.

"The blankets are supposed to work much the same way tight swaddling helps newborns feel snug and secure so they can doze off more quickly. The blanket basically simulates a comforting hug, in theory helping to calm and settle the nervous system," Harvard Health Publishing reported. "Companies that sell the blankets typically recommend that you buy one that weighs approximately 10% of your body weight, which would mean a 15-pound blanket for a 150-pound person." For healthy adults, Harvard noted there are likely few risks to try it other than price with most costing $100 or more, however adults with sleep apnea, sleep disorders, respiratory problems or chronic health issues should consult a doctor first and parents should consult a doctor or trained therapist before trying one on a child.

2. Food cravings can derail plans to lower fat and calories. WebMD notes people who get cravings tend to be heavier, not surprising as fattening foods are often the desired snack. Ice cream may be on the list. WebMD notes a typical serving of vanilla ice cream has 230 calories, noting a better choice may be a half-cup of slow-churned ice cream with less fat and half the calories. So while food cravings will happen, it's having other items on hand and trying them as an alternative that may help finally in shedding those pounds or staying healthier. Want potato chips, try celery or carrots dipped in hummus for a more nutritious crunch. Instead of a doughnut, try a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter. Craving pizza? Look for the many options now available to have it but in a healthier way such as cauliflower crust or making it at home with a whole-wheat crust and top with plenty of vegetables for the taste you want but without the added calories, fat and guilt.

2. Try strength training twice a week. The results may surprise and provide a significant and key health benefits.

Last fall, a study by a team of U.S. and British strength-training experts worked to determine if short training sessions, using different lift techniques, could improve strength, according to a story in The Washington Post. They used 62 experienced strength trainers with an average age of 40 and placed them into three groups-a control group (lifting in two second and lowering for four seconds), a slow group (doing the same exercise with 10 seconds of lifting and 10 seconds of lowering, and an even slower group doing the same lifting and lowering but at 30 seconds. "All subjects followed a routine that consisted of two different strength sessions, of nine exercises each, that emphasized the chest press, leg press, and pull down. Subjects performed each session once a week for 10 weeks." And after 10 weeks "subjects in all three groups had gained a significant amount of strength, but there was no difference between groups. All groups also had a lower blood glucose level."

"Our paper showed that you don't need to spend two hours in the gym five times a week, as many people think," said lead investigator James Fisher, from Southampton Solent University in England. "Even trained individuals continue to make gains with less than an hour a week. My own workouts take less than 20 minutes, twice a week."

Next steps: Consider making time in your schedule for two short strength-training sessions a week. Don't sweat the details. You can lift at whatever pace you enjoy, but it is important, Fisher believes, to reach the point of momentary failure where you can't do any more.

Don't practice explosive, high-speed lifting that could lead to injuries. "Stay relaxed and maintain your breathing pattern," Fisher advises. "Don't hold your breath."

This approach should be even more effective with untrained lifters, who will have more to gain from beginning a strength program. "The main message is that resistance training can be relatively simple and still effective," says Fisher. "It doesn't have to get complicated by various training methods and protocols."

For more tips from the weekly Three Things list, check out the Monday Motivator page each week in the Dispatch or e-edition, or go to and go to lifestyle to reach the drop-down menu for health or search using the keywords "Monday Motivator."

Questions or tips to share? Contact Renee Richardson, managing editor, at or 218-855-5852.