How often do we really think about how our physical fitness influences not only our lives, but also the lives of our children? We concentrate on our appearance and even how we feel. But do we contemplate on how our physical fitness directly impacts our relationships and ability to take care of our children? Maybe if recognize the influence of our attitudes and behavior toward physical fitness and health on our children, it may motivate us all to make healthier choices. Our children look to us to model healthy behaviors.
It’s also important to be aware how physical fitness impacts mental fitness. For our children, our improved physical well-being means that we can exercise more patience and be more attentive. We are better equipped to keep up with their learning and extracurricular activities. So parents, here are some simple steps you can take to create a family culture that can help you and your children reap the benefits of being physically and mentally fit:
- Pre-plan/package meals.
Active families may be tempted to seek refuge at fast food restaurants where increased saturated fat, refined sugars, and calories may be lurking to undermine healthy activities. To counter this, pre-plan meals for the week by choosing to spend one day and cook meals for 4-5 days. There are several great storage container options that go from the freezer to the microwave or oven without a problem. Use small bags to pre-pack small snacks like nuts, “portable” veggies and fruit, and lean meats so you can grab and go to support a long, activity filled day. I have a small cooler bag and ice packs ready at all times.
- Choose water over sodas and/or drink mixes.
Water is essential to the proper functioning of our organs. Staying hydrated, especially in the hot South, lowers our chances of high blood pressure, heart disease, and numerous other ailments including fatigue and headaches. Keeping sugary drink mixes and sodas out of the cupboard helps us and our children avoid the intake of empty calories and excess sodium.
- Create a family inclusive exercise regimen.
Although your children may not be able to work out with you at the gym, a family walk/stroll after dinner is doable. Include a weekly family game night. Sometimes instead of choosing a board or video game, choose softball or kickball. Get your family use to being active.
- Introduce and reinvent food choices.
Be willing to try new foods. You and your children will never know what you like until you try it. There are so many healthy food options to satisfy various tastes. With increasing numbers of international food markets and neighborhood grocery stores offering more diverse selections, shopping for and making meals can become fun activities for the entire family. Take care in your presentation. Include on the plate fruits and vegetables that are vibrant in color. We tend to try and like foods that are pleasing to the eye.
- Post and discuss your fitness goals.
Have a central location where you post your fitness goals and your status. Include “checkpoints”. Goal setting is an important skill for our children’s success. Allowing our children to see how we set goals and work towards their attainment will help them to do the same. During family meals, discuss your goals and actual steps you are taking. Talk about when you didn’t reach a goal and what your plan is to ultimately reach it; you are helping your children develop their problem solving techniques.
This is just a start, but hopefully it will help you and your family get more fit. The benefits are worth the change.