Multipure’s Spotlight for April 2021 is “Family Wellness,” which means that this month, our blog posts and social media will focus on nutrition, hydration, and healthy habits for better family wellness and happiness. For this article, we’re going to be discussing general tips for family fitness.
Family fitness is about encouraging and fostering a healthy lifestyle for the whole family, through eating healthier, drinking enough water, and enjoying an active lifestyle – both individually and as a group. Family fitness is about developing healthy habits at a young age and leading by example to reinforce those habits for life.
Better nutrition, better hydration, and better physical fitness can promote better weight control, reduce stress, increase mental acuity, and bolster the immune system. Doing so as a family can strengthen family relationships and promote a healthier, happier household.
Tip #1: Lead by Example
For parents, the first step toward better family fitness is to lead by example. Make better choices toward a healthier lifestyle, and children will notice and be more inclined to emulate your example. Instead of checking email over a cup of coffee in the morning, drink a glass of water and go for a morning walk, or jog, or other activity. Instead of chips and soda with lunch, eat some fresh fruit or salad, and wash it down with a glass of ice water. If you’re making a healthy dinner, invite the kids to help – it makes for a fun group activity, everyone learns a little, and everyone’s more likely to eat the food. Set the example, be consistent, and be welcoming when your kids want to join in.
Tip #2: Focus on the Positive
When setting a good example, be positive. After a morning jog, don’t talk about how tired your legs are, or how winded you might be; talk about how it gets your blood pumping, how energized you feel for the rest of the day, or how accomplished you feel for completing the activity. If you’re switching out overly-sugared or overly-caffeinated beverages for water, talk about how clean, crisp, or refreshing the glass of water makes you feel. When eating fruits or vegetables instead of processed or greasy foods, talk about how fresh and how tasty the foods are, or how they can fill you up without feeling bloated or heavy.
Tip #3: Recognize the Effort
The key follow-up to setting a good example is to recognize when children start to follow your good example. Praise your kids if they reach for an apple instead of chips as a snack, or if they go outside to ride their bike instead of sitting on the couch playing video games. Let them know that you are noticing their activity, and that you recognize that they are making healthier choices.
Hand-in-hand with recognizing effort is to praise the effort itself, and not any specific results. Reinforce the better choice as an accomplishment in itself; if your kid joins you for a morning walk but gets tired after a few minutes, praise them for the effort, thank them for joining you for company, and then encourage them to keep it up and do just a bit more next time. Positive reinforcement will encourage them to keep up the effort and keep working to better themselves. Remember – focus on the positive, not the negative.
Tip #4: Eat Healthier by Not Focusing on Health
Did you know that children often associate “healthy foods” with poor taste, and “junk food” with good taste? A key, then, to getting children to eating healthier is not to focus on the health benefits at all. Instead, focus on the flavor, or the texture, or how good it tastes in combination with the other foods. Talk about the crunch of celery, and how tasty it is with some peanut butter on it. Get excited about how sweet the carrot sticks are, and how yummy they are when dipped in a little bit of dressing. Talk about your favorite types of apples, and how well apple slices go with a little yogurt or honey dip.
Remember to focus on the positive when it comes to healthier foods. If you personally don’t like a specific food, don’t voice your dislike, as that may give your children a ready excuse to dismiss even trying the food. Let them try the food and make the decision – you may find that they may enjoy eating foods you do not.
Tip #5: Make Exercise Part of the Routine
We already talked about going for a walk or other morning exercise activity. The same can be said for other exercise activities. Perhaps make a habit of an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood. Or an after-school bike ride or trampoline session. The key is to make physical activity part of the everyday routine for you and your family.
Tip #6: Make Little Things into Exercise
You do not need to plan out specific activities with your family to get everyone a bit of exercise. Even little things can help get your family moving more. Park further away from the supermarket, so that everyone needs to walk a little farther from the parking lot. Use the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator when possible. Instead of hopping into the car to drive to the corner store, walk or bike to the store. These little things can add up.
Tip #7: Stay Properly Hydrated
Increased physical activity requires increased hydration. Make sure your family is staying properly hydrated with healthy options. This means avoiding sodas, energy drinks, or overly-sweetened fruit juices, and focusing instead on clean drinking water and the occasional sports drink. The more you sweat, the more you need to hydrate to make up for lost water.
Tip #8: Make Things Fun and Competitive
Making things into a game or competition is a good way to encourage physical activity. Challenge family to see who can jump rope the longest, or who can do the most push-ups, or who can keep a soccer ball bouncing the longest on their knee. Even watching TV can lead to exercise with some creativity, like challenging your kids to hop on one foot during commercials. If competitive spirit isn’t enough, perhaps reward the winning child with the choice of next healthy snack or next outdoor activity. Just make sure to praise the effort, and not just the outcome.
Tip #9: Learn Something New Together
A great way for a family to stay healthy and active together is to learn something new together. Take the family to learn martial arts, or yoga, or dance lessons, or learn a new sport together. Take everyone to the driving range or batting cages, and see who can hit the balls the farthest, or with the most consistency. Learn how to roller skate, or juggle, or hula hoop together.
Ultimately, family fitness comes down to a making better health choices, being more active, and leading by example. Make everyone part of the process, and get everyone involved in eating healthier, exercising more, and doing things as a family. With the right mindset, a positive attitude, and a little creativity, everyone can do a little to help their families increase their fitness and their happiness.