Simple Steps to Improve your Family Wellness
According to recent research, many children are not getting enough physical activity because their parents are failing to prioritise their health. The research suggests that in this time poor society, parents find it easier to sit their children in front of a TV or computer rather than take them out for a nice walk or a bike ride.
But parents need to take more responsibility for their children getting enough physical activity. Dr Ron Eaker says that although some parents might sign their children up for programs thinking they are teaching their children about exercise, “they don’t always make the connection that what they model through their actions and attitudes about exercise impacts their children more than anything else”. It’s not enough for parents to outsource their children’s exercise and expect them to form healthy attitudes about physical activity, parents need to teach them by example. A great way for parents to teach their children is for families to exercise together, which is something he calls “family wellness”.
As parents, it’s vital that we teach our children to be active and healthy and be positive role models. Obese children and adolescents are at a higher risk of being obese adults than those who maintain a healthy weight. Likewise children who establish healthy habits young will carry them with them for the rest of their life. Exercising as a family not only has obvious physical benefits but it’s also a great opportunity for parents and children to spend quality time together. And in a world where we all wish we had more time, it’s an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Get some exercise, whilst getting some much needed family time.
We’ve known for some time that childhood obesity is on the rise and as life gets busier and we struggle to juggle work and life it’s often easier to be a couch potato. But as parents we need to start shifting our priorities and making “family wellness” number one because as a parent, providing your children with the tools to lead a healthy life is the greatest gift you can give.
Some important steps on the journey to family wellness:
• Get a good nights sleep. It’s no suprise to those of us with children, that sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. A bad nights sleep can seriously interfere with your health. So, make sure your bedroom is quiet, limit caffeine 12 hours before you go to sleep, set a regular bedtime and bedtime ritual such as a warm bath a good book, stay away from big meals at night, avoid alcohol just before bed and quit smoking as nicotine is a stimulant and you will also suffer withdrawals during the night. For children, it’s important to get them into a bedtime routine too. Have some quiet time before bed, a warm bath and a story. For infants, baby massage before bed can help settle the child, improve sleep, reduce crying and relieve problems such as wind, colic, constipation, reflux and eczema. It even helps reduce postnatal depression.
• Get your 2 and 5. Adults need 2 portions of fruit and 5 portions of vegetables per day. The amount children need depends on their age. If you, like most parents, struggle to get your children to eat vegetables why not invest in a juicer? Encourage your children to choose what fruit they would like and watch as it gets turned into juice. Make a big batch and freeze it in ice cube trays or snap lock bags.
• Drink more water. Adults should drink at least 8 glasses a day. Sometimes this is easier said than done but it’s important to teach your children that water is the number one source of hydration. If you’re having trouble getting your children to drink more water, why not encourage their school to join the crunch and sip campaign. This is a Government initiative which encourages classrooms to eat more fruit and vegetables. In WA, participating schools receive free water bottles.
• Eat dinner as a family around the table, not in front of the tv. This way, you’re more likely to eat more slowly meaning you’ll not only appreciate your food more but you’ll aid better digestion. You’re also less likely to overeat and only consume the amount of food you need. Eating dinner as a family also gives you the opportunity to talk as a family and find out what is going on in each other’s lives.
• Plan your meals – planning your meals means you’re not tempted to pick up takeaway on the way home from work or make a rushed unhealthy decision. Also by planning your meals you can save yourself some time. This winter make the most of your slow cooker. If you know what you are having for dinner when you wake up, you can crank up the slow cooker and have dinner ready at the end of the day. Or try some assembly cooking where you cook in bulk once a month, stocking up your freezer with yummy supplies so you don’t have to cook every day. Use the time you’ve saved to do something active as a family.
• Start your day as you mean to go on. Set your alarm 20 minutes earlier so that you’re not rushing around in the morning. You won’t really miss that extra 20 minutes especially if you’ve followed the tips above to have a good night’s sleep, but you’ll feel much better for the rest of the day by not starting it stressed.
• Commit to exercise as a family. Programs such as Jungle Sports are a great way for families to get active together. Its unique program offers 50 minute soccer, rugby, dance and multi sports sessions for children aged 18 months to seven years and provides parents with fundamental skills to teach their children about sport, not just in the sessions but in the home as well. Fun ways of keeping active such as this are the first steps on the journey to a healthy and happy life. And if you’re committing to an activity the same time each week you are more likely to stick to it.