Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Their goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. Priding themselves on making sure actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives. Take a look at her top tips on keeping the whole family healthy and active!
As parents, it is easy to get stuck in a rut. We concentrate solely on our day to day duties such as doing the school run, work, cooking, shopping and paying bills that sometimes we do not give as much attention to our family’s well being as we should.
I am not a bad parent, but I have found myself occasionally taking the easy option and getting takeout for the family instead of cooking, or sitting my youngest in front of the TV with her favorite DVD for convenience.
A study by the World Health Organisation showed that childhood and adult obesity is increasing worldwide (source) (source), suggesting that poor nutrition, lack of exercise, prevalence of convenience foods and digital ‘screen-time’ were all contributing causes.
But it doesn’t have to be like that!
Families can work together to ensure that their lives are healthier, and with a healthy body it has been proven that happiness increases also! (source)
So let us look at how to encourage the whole family to get fit and healthy!
Make Exercise Fun!
Two years ago my husband and I took out memberships to the gym. I think in total we probably attended on four occasions, so what at first seemed a great idea, just turned into an expensive fad. And whilst this was theoretically a good idea for us, it wasn’t going to help the fitness of our two children.
But there are ways to encourage the whole family to exercise together, which makes it enjoyable and not a chore!
Walking – At least twice a week after dinner go out for a walk as a family. Just twenty minutes of walking can reduce an individual’s chance of premature death (source). Walking is a fantastic time for the everyone to catch up and talk about their respective days.
For my children I made a simple ‘street-bingo’ game on a sheet of A4, where they have to tick off items such as cats, mailboxes, trampolines etc. that they see on their walk. This has led to some incredibly long strolls as they become more and more intent on completing the whole list!
Family Challenges – Children (and adults!) love a competition, especially where there may be a prize involved. Simple outdoor items such as hula hoops, basketballs and skipping ropes are great toys for having fun and keeping fit.
Set a competition to see who can do the most skips in a minute, or bounces of a basketball. My children love competing against me and my husband. A weekly tally can be kept on a kitchen blackboard or a chart stuck to the fridge door.
3. Activity Vacations – The time I see my children most active is when they are on vacation. Even a simple beach holiday means they are in and out of the sea or playing games in the sand.
Why not take it a step further by considering an activity vacay. Trekking, hill climbing, swimming and tree walking are all healthy fun for all the family in which they will need no encouragement!
Make Food Exciting
Instead of mealtimes being just a routine, make them an occasion!
Be Together and Talk- Turn off the TV, put down the smartphones and eat as a family. It is a great time to catch up and share moments. A recent study reported that families that eat together are mentally healthier (source).
Choose a Mystery Vegetable – Take the children to the supermarket and let them choose a vegetable they have not tried before. Children adore thinking that they are in control, and their inquisitiveness will make them eager to try the new food at dinner time. My eldest still loves this game, although it has lead to some very strange combinations!
Not only is a good night’s sleep beneficial for overall mental health, it has also be shown to reduce obesity in both children and adults (source).
Read to your children before they go to sleep, or let them read to you. It is a amazing opportunity for bonding, sharing and discussing. It’s really rewarding and promotes good sleep (source).
The easiest way to encourage the whole family to get fit and healthy is to do things together and make the mundane more exciting! Spice up those everyday events and the entire family will be healthier both in mind and body!
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