You probably know that regular physical activity helps both parents and children stay well. It strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones. But did you know that physical activity could strengthen families, too? Families that take walks, play sports, or do physically active chores together often notice these benefits: better communication and bonding, less stress and conflict, and more family fun!
Getting family members of all ages involved in the same physical activity at one time can be a challenge. Here are tips that may help:
- Set regular, specific activity times. Determine times when the whole family is available.
- Plan and track progress. Write plans on a family calendar.
- Build new skills. Enroll yourself and the kids in exercise classes you will both enjoy.
- Treat physical activity as a gift. Give presents that encourage physical activity, such as bikes, balls, jump ropes, and badminton sets.
Both parents and children can treasure the times when the family is physically active together. Visit Choose MyPlate’s Ten Tips to Be an Active Family for additional information.
Sources: ChooseMyPlate.gov, WebMD
During the holiday season, don’t forget to make time for family meals. Children who often eat dinner with their families are more likely to do well in school, have positive peer relationships, and resist the harmful effects of substance abuse. In addition, regular family mealtime improves communication and nutrition, builds stronger family bonds, and is an opportunity for parents to teach important skills to their children. Furthermore, meals prepared at home are often less expensive and more nutrient rich.
Here are ways to enjoy family mealtime during busy holiday schedules:
- Make family mealtime a priority. Set aside specific times of the week when family members will eat together.
- Be creative and flexible about when and where you eat. Make the most of opportunities instead of worrying about following a strict timetable.
- Make mealtime pleasant. Children learn social skills from listening and watching their parents. Parents can set a positive tone for family meals and set a good example by listening and sharing.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the electronic devices (cell phones, television, etc.). Commit to device-free meals on or during the week of December 3, 2018, by participating in the initiative “Dining In” for Healthy Families, from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
- Keep meals simple and easy. Use a slow cooker to prepare a meal that can be ready to eat when the family is ready to eat.
- Use family mealtime Conversation Cards.
Source: Adapted from PM 1842, Say “Yes” to Family Meals, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, March 2015
MARCH into spring armed with habits that help you become your healthiest self. Consider these tips:
Move every day – Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily for better blood pressure, stress reduction, and weight control. This can include three 10-minute bouts of physical activity throughout the day. Choose activities you enjoy, raise your heart rate, build strength, and increase flexibility. An activity buddy can help you stay faithful to your plan.
Avoid Skipping Meals – When making a shopping list and planning meals, consider MyPlate (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/). Include healthy snacks (e.g., low fat yogurt, vegetables with low fat dip, whole grain bread with peanut butter) to meet your family’s nutritional needs. Healthy snacks sustain energy levels between meals and help you stay on track with your health goals.
Read food labels – Aim high (20% or more) for vitamins, minerals and fiber. Aim low (5% or less) for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. For more information on how to read a food label, watch the “Label Reading for Health” video at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/page/online-lessons.
Choose foods carefully – Become a smart shopper by reducing the amount of convenience foods eaten, choosing fruit canned in juice, and buying no salt added canned vegetables. When you are choosing foods, make half your plate fruits and vegetables and watch portion sizes.
Have family meals – Make family meal time a priority. Research shows family meals promote healthier eating. Eat as a family a few times each week. Set a regular mealtime and turn off the TV, computers, and phones. Have all family members help in meal planning and cooking.
Today we go everywhere by car and sit for hours in front of the TV or computer. This sedentary lifestyle has been tied to obesity and other health-related problems.
Family exercise can improve the health of your loved ones, be fun, and at the same time develop stronger connections among all of you. The goal is to get youth active with 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day; adults need 30 minutes every day.
So, how do you find a way to make it work for everyone?
- Combine exercise and household chores by having the entire family walk the dog, rake the lawn, or weed the garden.
- Engaging the entire family in household chores/activities makes the workload lighter for everyone and builds a sense of teamwork.
- Designate one evening as family fitness night and take turns designing the family workout you will all do together.
Eventually, all family members get to do their preferred workout activities and all will benefit from a workout that will never be dull. In the process, you’ll teach your children not only about health, but also family connection. Most importantly, make it fun for everyone!
With the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s still important to take time to eat meals with your family. When you have family meals together, you are making positive memories. And research shows many benefits of family mealtime.
Families are more likely to eat a nutritious meal when they eat together. Children who eat with their families are likely to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Research shows adolescents are also less likely to smoke, drink, and use illegal drugs during their teen years if their family eats meals together regularly. Enjoying meals together enhances family communication and improves manners.
Enjoy meals with your family whether it’s around the kitchen table, at a restaurant where you can talk together, or spreading a blanket on the living room floor for an indoor picnic. The important factor is to eat together and share conversation.