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Start Healthy Habits - Family Fitness & Nutrition | Juice Plus+

Have your kids been spending more time on screens during quarantine? Don’t be embarrassed if the answer is yes. Many parents are wondering how to pry their kids off the couch and away from their tablets, phones, and television screens. 

You’re right to be concerned. More hours spent watching television or playing video games has been linked to various health risks, low self-esteem, and lower academic achievement in kids and teens.i It’s a simple truth that healthy kids need to move. 

But if you’re not moving much, they won’t either. That’s why family fitness is one of the most important healthy habits to start. Along with hydration, nutrition, and sleep, it’s one of the four pillars of health.

Make the Connection

While they may seem separate, these four pillars are interconnected. Good family nutrition will give kids (and you) the energy to exercise. Being active will help everyone’s sleeping habits. And staying hydrated can not only keep everyone moving longer, it can also prevent calorie overload. That’s because it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger and to eat when you really need to drink.ii 

As Dr. Paul Stricker, pediatrician and sports medicine expert, puts it, “Combining good nutrition and exercise with proper hydration and enough sleep will give the body a great chance at staying healthy.” 

Get into the Great Outdoors

Getting kids outside is a good first step to family fitness. Kids who spend more time outside are more active than those who stay indoors.iii Play hide and seek or hopscotch with younger kids. Encourage older ones to ride their bikes or play tag with their siblings. 

For healthy kids of all ages, establish an all-family after-dinner walk around the neighborhood. You can make it a little more interesting by trying a penny walk; at every corner, toss a penny to determine which way to turn. Or make it a neighborhood scavenger hunt, where everyone in the family tries to collect the items on your list. On the weekends, try longer expeditions.

Most importantly, consider what your kids like to do best. Got a kid who loves to skateboard? Take him to a skate park. Got a kid you swear is half-mermaid? Take her to the nearest body of water to splash or swim. My daughter absolutely loves the water, and I’ve noticed how quickly she falls asleep on the days we take her to the pool or lake. Score one for better sleeping habits!

Don’t Forget the Fun

On the subject of family fitness, Dr. Stricker emphasizes the fun factor: “Having activities that are fun is the most attractive way for a kid to enjoy getting exercise,” he says. “Running, jumping, and hopping are basic, fundamental motor skills and can happen with an activity as simple as tag or leap-frog. Being together as a family having fun with creative activities will benefit overall family health in addition to the children’s.” If your exercise routine has gone sideways while you shelter in place, your best chance at getting back to it is doing it with your kids. 

Dr. Ali McManus, a professor of Health and Exercise at the University of British Columbia, recommends parents avoid making exercise too structured. In other words, “don’t try to be the P.E. teacher.”iv Making it more like recess will go over better with most kids. The overall goal for school-age kids and teens is an hour of physical activity a day. Preschoolers need more.v

Work It

If you’ve got tweens or teens, don’t overlook housework as a form of exercise. Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and mowing the lawn will get your kids moving and free up enough of your time so everyone can go on that weekend hike.

Need more inspiration? Check out these tips from the American College of Sports Medicine on building fit kids. And find more info about fueling sports performance with proper nutrition from Dr. Stricker’s JPTV eposide. 

How do you get your kids moving?

 

 

References

Getting Kids to Move More: Exercise scientists and coaches offer tips on getting young people to be more active – New York Times

American College of Sports Medicine’s Tips for Building Fit Kids

 


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