Experts recommend that you accumulate as little as 30 minutes of activity a day, most days of the week, in order to achieve health benefits. Here are a variety of ways you can help get yourself and your family more active and in a healthier frame of mind:
Learn new activities together. For example, aerobic dancing or cross country skiing can be lots of fun for both children and adults.
Activities do not have to cost any money. Turn on the radio and dance, take a walk through new fallen snow.
Make time after dinner for activity. Get children involved in preparation and clean-up. Then spend the time you’ve saved by doing something together, like taking a walk with your children.
Organize a neighborhood jump rope or hula-hoop event. In the winter have a snowman building contest.
Kids of all ages love classic backyard and playground games -- teach your children the games you played as a child. Be sure to play along with them!
Create an obstacle course and take turns timing each other running through it.
Limit TV! The average American child spends more than 24 hours each week watching television and even more time sitting if they play electronic games or use the computer. This is often combined with snacking. The time could easily be spent participating in some sort of physical activity.
Everyone should try to be active at least 30 minutes each day . Look for ways to become more active throughout the day. For example, use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the bus stop.
Go walking together under the stars, during a misty rain....
Exercise with your children. Not only do you set a good example, but being active is also good for adults.
Think Habits, Not Diets...
Try asking children, “Which would you like for a snack, an orange or an apple?” Instead of simply asking, "What would you like for a snack?"
To help children make appropriate choices, limit the amount of inappropriate foods and increase the better choices.
Keep a fresh bowl of fruit on the table. Keep crisp and crunchy vegetables like celery sticks and baby carrots in the fridge. Hungry kids - and grownups - will grab what's handiest.
Do not overly restrict sweets or treats. Try calling them “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods.
Never use food as a reward or punishment.
Bring bags of healthy snacks with you when you leave the house to avoid being tempted when out. (Check out our printable bookmark listing 101 Heart Healthy Snack Ideas!)
Remind children that healthy foods provide fuel for learning, growing, sports and play.
Keep water readily available. Refrigerating tap water in a “cool” water bottle or pitcher can increase its appeal.
Let children pick out new foods to try when visiting the grocery store.
Try foods from different countries.
Do not get caught up in the super size phenomenon, “free” refills, or unlimited buffets.
Discourage eating straight from the box or the bag, insist everyone eat from a bowl or a plate.
Continue to offer foods to children and encourage them to try one bite, not just once but each time the food is served. Remember, children’s tastes change as they grow so it may take several tries before they begin to like something.
Do not encourage (or insist) children clean their plate. Young children especially will stop eating when they are no longer hungry.
Offer an edible “spoon,” such as a stalk of celery, for scooping up things like chili or stew.
Do not put a child on a diet unless directed by your health care provider. It is much better to increase physical activity and make some healthy changes, such as switching to 1 percent or fat free milk and increasing the number of healthy choices.
Do not “diet”! Be a good role model. If you eat right and stay active, your children will too!
Here are some general tips for getting your children to eat a variety of healthier foods:
Have children help with the planning of meals.
Have children assist with the shopping for family meals.
Children will take more interest in eating foods if they help with the preparation of the meals.
Children also like to help serve.
Make some meals a time for adults to serve the children and other nights for the children to serve the adults.
Make up funny names for dishes, encourage children to rename a dish.
Make mealtime fun.
Be creative when serving foods:
- Make a face on a tomato slice with various vegetable bits;
- Cut sandwiches into funny shapes;
- Make pancakes in the shapes of letters.
Have mealtimes centered around different themes. For instance, have a Mexican night where the children make fiesta placemats, decorations and put on clothes that have a Mexican theme.
Serve a "salad bar" so children can make their own selection.
Never force a child to eat something - Do encourage the child to always try a bite of everything. (Do this at each different meal that a food is served. our tastes change as we grow and sometimes a food that isn't favored at one meal becomes tasty at another.)
Don’t always have "traditional" mealtime foods - once in awhile serve pizza, or fruit-yogurt shakes, for breakfast. Try banana waffles for dinner.
Use your imagination: have a picnic in the middle of the kitchen floor; or use your best plates and glasses and pretend you're at a fancy restaurant.
Plant a vegetable garden with your children.
Since young children tend to mimic behavior, be a good role model by eating a variety of foods yourself.
Do not assume activity means exercise, or sports.
Being active simply means moving - walking, playing, gardening, dancing, tennis, cycling... the list is endless!
Make family time = healthy time. Visit an orchard, take a hike, walk to a picnic spot and reward yourselves with the food you picked at the orchard.
Help your family see how being active can fit into everyday life - use the stairs instead of the elevator, get off the bus a block or two earlier, etc.
Think about times during the day when you can trade inactive times for more active ones.
Limit unnecessary sitting time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of television watching per day for children between the ages 2 and 11. Watch television only if it’s your favorite show.
Exercise while you are watching television. See who can do the most situps or pushups during a commercial break.
Get the entire family involved with yard work, washing the car, shoveling snow and so on.
Involve your extended family and friends in your activities.
Emphasize fun, not skill.
It’s important to choose activities you and your children enjoy!
Buy birthday and holiday presents that promote movement, such as Frisbees, balls and skates.
Plan parties and vacations around movement and play.
Volunteer for physical activity events at your child’s school.
Think habits, not exercise.