FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As we enter the new year, many are trying to stick to health and fitness-related resolutions.

The Spark Foundation said getting more active in the new year not only benefits your body, it produces chemicals in your brain that are good for mental health. The Fayetteville nonprofit is made up of those passionate about running and educating Northwest Arkansas youth.

One of those members is family and mental health nurse practitioner, Kelly McCarty, who stresses the importance of exercise for her patients.

“It also helps neural connections in the brain, so it is protective against things like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Exercise helps people think and focus better,” said McCarty.

When setting new year’s resolutions, McCarty recommends making small, achievable goals.

“It just depends on what level you’re at. So if you’re not doing anything and haven’t done really any physical exercise, then in order to prevent injury and to set yourself up for success, you start slow,” said McCarty.

Another Spark Foundation board member recommends stretching before and after working out. Watch some examples of stretches reporter Kayla Davis gives to do at home below!

To start slow, the Spark Foundation’s Executive Director, Carey Ashworth, said they push walking, jogging, and eventually running because they think it is one of the most accessible ways to exercise.

“It doesn’t require expensive sports equipment, and you don’t really need a gym membership. You just need your tennis shoes and a little bit of motivation,” said Ashworth.

Ashworth said you can use that motivation to participate in the non-profit’s races throughout the year. The dates and locations can be found below:

Ashworth said the money raised from these races supports local kids in communities such as Fayetteville, Springdale, and Siloam Springs.

“Our money goes to support the physical education programs, after school run clubs, playground equipment improvements, all kinds of things that help increase people’s access to health and fitness,” said Ashworth.

You can find more information on those races and some eight-week 5k training plans on The Spark Foundation’s website.