Are your kids always running around? Now is the time to take advantage of their energy and talk with them about the benefits of lifelong fitness and good nutrition.
Help your children develop positive attitudes toward healthy lifestyles now, and they'll be more likely to carry healthy habits with them into adulthood.
Identify Different Types of Fun Physical Activities
According to the document 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, children and adults should engage in physical activities for 60 minutes each day. This is especially important for young children and adolescents--to ensure they continue to build strong bones and muscles.
Try activities such as jumping rope and dancing to keep your family excited about exercise. Every family is different so work with yours to create a list of physical activities everyone enjoys doing together, then brainstorm a list of new activities to try, such as bicycling, gardening, hiking, or kicking a soccer ball in the park. As your family thinks of new activities, keep adding them to the list.
Decide When to Play Together
Choose one or two activities to participate in each day. One simple activity you can do together is to take a walk after dinner. Walking is an excellent way to help digest a meal and strengthen muscles, and it provides an opportunity to share about each other's day. List the activities on your calendar and mark off each day's activities together so everyone can look forward to the next day's activities.
Determine Your Fitness Goals and Keep Track of Them
As with any type of exercise you begin, it's important to consider the ages and current fitness levels of all participants. Then you can work toward increasing the intensity and duration of different activities. For example, during the first week, your family might take 30-minute walks each night after dinner, followed by dancing to your child's favorite CD in the living room. The next week, increase the time spent walking and pick up the dancing pace a bit.
One way to track your family's fitness goals is to write them down and put them on the refrigerator or in some other highly visible location. Review your goals periodically. After a goal has been met, set a new goal to work toward. Remember: The most important goal is for all family members to participate in physical activities regularly, so it's important that any goals you set are attainable and that everyone is motivated to work toward them.
Discuss the Importance of Good Nutrition and Healthy Eating Habits
Children need adults to teach them about foods that are healthy for their bodies as well as to model eating healthy foods. Talking about good nutrition with children can be as simple as explaining the need to eat foods from different food groups to ensure their bodies receive the different vitamins and minerals needed to stay healthy. Create menus with your kids that include foods that are healthy and that everyone enjoys. Then, take your kids shopping and let them locate different foods and teach them how to read food labels.
Maintaining Your Plan
- Get active. Remember to participate in some type of physical activity or activities for a total of at least 60 minutes each day.
- Have fun. Your kids are much more likely to participate in physical activities that are fun, so make sure everyone enjoys the time spent together.
- Eat healthy. Eat fewer foods that are high in fat and calories, and more foods that benefit the body, such as fruits and vegetables. Involve the entire family in selecting and preparing meals so everyone understands how to make healthy food choices.
One of the best things you can do for your children today is to help them develop the knowledge and lifestyle habits that will help them live happy and healthy lives tomorrow.