Today, I am happy to bring you a guest article from Anita Fernandes. Anita has been writing extensively on health and wellness for more than a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and weight loss and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers. Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle, as she has battled and overcome eating disorders and obesity. She shares her experiences in an effort to help others overcome the physical and mental health problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable.
In recent years, young kids and teens have turned to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. In fact, teens today have the same physical activity levels as 60-year olds. Excessive screen time including watching TV, playing video games and online chatting have contributed heavily towards this trend. This sedentary lifestyle also leads to other unhealthy habits such as poor eating habits and inadequate sleep. The good news is that there are several ways to encourage your kids to move towards a healthy lifestyle.
How to Involve Kids in a Healthy Lifestyle
- Encourage sports and physical activity
Studies show that kids and teens spend 7+ hours a day on average in front of screens (mobile, TV, computer). It is important for kids to stay active during their formative years as overweight teens have a 70% chance of suffering from weight gain and obesity as adults. A simple way to encourage your kids to stay active is to schedule family move night instead of your regular movie night. This can be any sort of physical activity including dancing or games. Let your kids pick the activity or if they are older, you can encourage them to come up with their own games. Staying active together will also help to build stronger relationships and improve your kids’ self-esteem. You can also enrol your children in fitness programs for kids that use exergaming (exercise + gaming) to motivate youngsters to get active.
- Include kids in meal prep
A balanced diet is one of the main components of a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, including kids in meal prep requires considerable time, patience and even extra clean-up. This can pose quite the challenge for parents with busy work schedules. You can involve your kids in meal prepping by getting them involved in menu planning and even their daily lunchboxes. Use grocery shopping trips to teach them about food groups and healthy food vs unhealthy food. Meal prep over the weekend so that your kids can get involved in the process. This will also help your child gain a sense of accomplishment as they are able to contribute to the family. Kids who learn to eat healthy are less likely to suffer from weight problems such as weight gain and obesity.
- Make soda substitutes at home
Soda is one of the most popular drinks for kids as studies show that 30% of all kids in the US consume 2 or more of these sugary drinks every day. Soda has been linked to several health issues including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and weaker bones. The high sugar content in sodas also has a detrimental effect on oral health, which in turn increases the risk of respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Teach your kids about the impact of soda on their health and help them develop a taste for healthier alternatives. For instance, you can take them grocery shopping and allow them to pick out the ingredients for lemonade or ice tea. If they are old enough, they can even help to make these drinks for the entire family.
- Have regular sleep timings for the entire family
Sleep is an important but often overlooked aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Most of us have packed schedules and as a result we tend to sacrifice our sleep. Recent reports show that 40% of Americans sleep for 6 hours or less each night which is less than the recommended 7-8 hours. Children learn from example so make sure that you have a regular sleep timings for the entire family. Younger kids require more sleep as compared to their older siblings – kids between 3 to 6 years require about 10 hours while kids who are 6 to 9 years old require 9 hours and teens require 8 hours. Involve your child in the family bedtime routine by allowing them to switch off the lights and perform any other pre-bedtime rituals.
- Encourage your child to develop lasting friendships
A healthy diet and regular exercise is important for your child’s well-being but you should also help them develop their social skills. Help your child form friendships early as it is an integral part of their social and emotional development. Studies show that there is a positive link between friendships and the development of attributes such as self-confidence, self-esteem and social competence. If your child is shy or nervous about making friends, you can allow him to help you bake a batch of cookies for the other children. This is a great way to help him make friends as he will feel more self-confident when he proudly tells them that he helped to make the cookies.
Shifting your family from a sedentary lifestyle towards a more active one will help all of you lead happier and healthier lives. National guidelines recommend that kids get a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. A simple way to meet this requirement is to exercise together as a family, after all, the family that plays together, stays together!
About Fitness for Health:
Looking for a fun activity for the whole family? Make fitness fun and schedule a Family Workout! Pretend you are on your own impossible mission and try to navigate our laser maze without breaking a laser beam! Chase lights and make them disappear on our Light Floor and Wall! Climb a rock wall or two…in our glow-in-the-dark room! Jump to your heart’s content on our 30′ long trampoline and so much more! Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org or call us at 301-231-7138 to learn more.