Grab the kids and get moving, today is Family Health & Fitness Day USA -- a national health and fitness initiative held annually on the last Saturday in September. The purpose of the day is to encourage family involvement in physical activity and eating right, primary goals of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health. According to the report, the majority of Americans, especially children from 12 to 21 years of age, are not exercising nearly enough or eating a nutritionally sound diet. As parents, we need to step up and help our families shape up -- it’s not nearly as hard as you would think. Follow these easily attainable steps to help your loved ones live a healthy lifestyle every day, not just once a year. Devote one hour per day to exercise. Experts say that children and adolescents should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical exercise per day; that’s really not as rigorous as it sounds. Focus on moderate-intensity aerobic exercises such as riding a bike, running around the playground or swimming -- these all count towards the daily goal. Often, just making a simple change, such as walking to school instead of driving, is all it takes! In addition, add a few minutes of muscle strengthening exercises (such as gymnastics or push-ups) and bone strengthening activities (such as running or jumping rope) for at least a few minutes every other day.
Encourage extra-curricular sports. Even if it’s at a non-competitive level, participation in school or community sports programs is a great way to promote health and fitness. From football and fencing to ice skating and soccer, there is at least one sport even the most resistant exerciser will end up loving. Exposure to a variety of active experiences will not only improve a youngster’s health but also expand his or her horizon to include what will hopefully become a life-long passion.
Make healthy eating fun. Eating a balanced diet doesn’t have to be boring or bland. Teach kids to build a healthy plate filled with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy products while avoiding the empty calories typically found in overly processed convenience and snack foods. In some instances, it can take 10 tastes or more, followed by a positive parental response, to get “picky” kids to accept a new food on a regular basis. You can often eliminate this battle with age-appropriate interventions including letting little ones dunk foods into healthy dips (like Litehouse Food’s Light Ranch Dip) or encouraging older children to help with the menu planning and cooking duties.
Get the whole family involved. Happy, healthy and fit families spend time with each other exercising and eating well. With work, school and a host of other obligations, there is no denying that most of us are extremely busy. But, are you really too busy to clean up your food and fitness routine? As with most aspects of life, you get out of it what you put into it – make time for what is important! Become a positive role model for health and fitness; get out there are break a sweat with your children and ditch the drive though for healthier dining options. When they are little, children will emulate everything you do. By setting the foundation for a healthy lifestyle early on, when your kids transform into teens (and you have become officially uncool), these healthy habits they have been practicing will be a natural way of life.