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Getting Healthy with the Family

By Karalee Evenson
March 27, 2012
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When it comes to making healthier lifestyle choices, we could all use a little support. Trying to change lifelong fitness and nutrition habits can seem like a very overwhelming task. If you are feeling the need to make some lifestyle changes, your family’s health habits could probably use an overhaul, too. Making small changes can add up to a big payoff for your family’s health. Who better to join you on the journey to a healthier lifestyle than those you care about the most? Having the support and teamwork of the whole family will increase your chances of sticking to that New Year’s resolution (usually forgotten by February!) for the long haul.

The first steps to making any change have to start in your home, with little changes incorporated gradually into your lifestyle. First of all, model the behavior you want your children to display every day. If you eat healthy and take care of yourself, your children are far more likely to follow suit. Put a limit on the number of hours a day spent in front of the television. If each person limits their time in front of the TV or computer to 1 or 2 hours a day, everybody will inevitably be moving more and sitting less. Also, keep the TV off during meal and snack times. People are far more likely to overeat when munching during their favorite show than if they are engaging with the family over dinner.

Invite older children to help with the cooking. This teaches them about what’s in the food they are eating, and can reinforce healthy eating habits — when cooking healthy meals, that is! Eat a variety of different foods, and encourage children to try new things. Who knows, they might even like the healthy options! While there may not be time to cook a healthy meal every night of the week, plan one weekend afternoon to whip up a few dishes to have on hand for the rest of the week. This will help save time and keep you from ordering a pizza for dinner when you’re too busy to cook. Also, make sure to serve reasonably sized portions. Eating with your family and conversing over dinner will slow down how quickly you eat, which means you’ll most likely eat less. If you end up serving your child more than he or she can eat, save the leftovers instead of encouraging the child to clean the plate.

Children are 38% less likely to loaf when the tools they need to exercise are readily available at home. Make sure toys are visible and that kids are able to move freely around the house. This goes for mom and dad as well — if you have workout equipment at home, use it! You spent good money on that treadmill in the basement, so don’t let it end up as your clothes rack.

Getting out of the house is important, too. Make time to get to the gym as a family at least a few times a week. Bring the baby while he or she is napping, and jog or walk on the treadmill during that time. Kids over the age of 9 can do a youth orientation at the YWCA to teach them how to use the cardio machines. And if they’re over 12, they can even use the weight machines under a parent’s supervision. Bring the kids to the Kids Zone while you and your spouse do a cycling class. Youth Fitness classes can also be a great way for kids to participate in all different kinds of activity.

Take five minutes each Sunday to plan your workouts for the week. Make exercise part of the family’s schedule so it won’t get lost in the other activities of the week. Physical activity can often end up as an afterthought for kids, too, but a detailed workout plan can help everyone stay motivated and stick to their goals!

Adding some fun activities to an active lifestyle can be a great way to keep the kids and you engaged. Your activity doesn’t always have to be regimented and confined to exercising at the gym. Plan a bike ride with stops along the way, such as at a park or the neighborhood pool in the summer. Bring the whole family out to walk the dog, or just take a walk around the neighborhood. Outdoor fun does not have to end when the snow flies either; this winter, why not take the kids out ice skating, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing for the afternoon? Remember that exercise should always be viewed as a fun activity and never be used as a punishment.

A fitness date with your spouse can be a great way to build some activity into your week. Sign up for tennis class, yoga, dance or any other activity that interests both of you. Kids tend to mirror their parents’ lifestyles, and children with active dads are three-and-a-half times more likely to exercise than those with inactive dads. When both parents are active, kids are a whopping six times more likely to exercise!

The important thing to remember is that the small changes we make every day can add up to a big change for you and your family. There will always be days where we make better choices than others, but you can always try again to get it right tomorrow. Do your best today and every day, and you will see your health and life improve by leaps and bounds.