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Fit Moms & Dads = Fit Kids

Submitted by on February 8, 2011 – 7:44 amOne Comment

by Dr. Minette Riordan

Being a busy, working mom of two children, I know first-hand how difficult it is to fit in fitness! Yet I also know how important it is to model a fit, healthy lifestyle for my kids. The saying that our kids tend “To do as we do, not as we say” is particularly true in this case. How can you convince your 9-year-old son to get off the couch or off the computer if he sees you sitting there for hours on end? This is especially challenging for me, I work from home and my work is computer-based. How do I model what it looks like to step away from the office and get moving?

How can you convince your 6-year-old daughter that apples and almonds are a healthier snack than potato chips if she doesn’t see you eating apples and almonds? Children are amazing sponges, they absorb every detail of what is happening around them. They also have a distinct and well-developed instinct for fairness. Why should they have to go play outside if we don’t? I have come up with a list of 10 ways that you can model a fit, healthy lifestyle for your kids, no matter how busy you are!

1. Set specific fitness goals and commit to them. Ask your kids for their support. I completed my 3rd half-marathon last December with my husband. He is now in training for his second triathlon. Our training time is great time we spend together, modeling a healthy relationship and fitness for our kids. Your goals don’t have to be this dramatic, set a goal to walk three times a week with a girlfriend or train with your kids for a local 5k event. Spending an hour at the gym is great, too! The key is: they need to see you actively engaged in healthy activities!

2. Participate in a family-focused fitness program like Marathon Kids which encourages you and your kids to walk 26.2 miles over a period of several months. This is a program offered by many local schools. While their 2010/2011 program is about to end, put it on your list for next fall or start your own goal. Pick a number of miles and a deadline to complete them by and go for it. Keep a calendar where everyone can see it and let your kids record their miles. Kids love watching those numbers add up. Make it fun, doable and get the extra benefit of teaching your kids about goal-setting, a critical life skill for future success.

3. While your kids are at soccer practice (or any other sport), spend part of that time taking a walk or jogging. Rather than sitting on the sideline chatting or running a quick errand, take a 30-minute walk. Invite other parents to go with you, company makes the time fly by! Once again, your kids will see taking the time to get fit which helps them maintain their motivation. If your kids don’t play sports, include them in your walking plan. Instead of driving to school to pick them up, walk!

4. Involve your kids in more fitness-related activities. Before watching a family movie on Friday night, take a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood. If the weather doesn’t permit this, turn off the t.v., turn on the stereo and have a dance party with your kids. They will love hearing some of that 80’s music that you listened to in high school. Or pull out one of those old aerobics videos you haven’t used in years, we all have a few hiding in the back of the closet.

5. Play an interactive video game like Wii Fit for 30 minutes. A round of bowling or tennis or Just Dance will get everyone off the couch. Limit static video game time as much as possible. You are in control of your children’s schedules, putting limits on t.v. and game time forces them to get creative. They will make up games, read, create art or play games outside when they don’t have another option.

6. On the weekends, commit to one fitness activity that the whole family enjoys: walking in a local park, a bicycle ride around a nearby lake, roller skating or ice skating are all good choices. The key is to do it as a family, don’t just take the kids and drop them off or sit and watch them play. Get involved. This will not only help make you a fitter family, you will be amazed at the positive impact on your relationships with your kids. Time together is critical to establishing a strong bond with them and encouraging them to talk to you about what is going on in their life. I have had some amazing talks with my kids while on a long walk at Arbor Hills Park in Plano.

7. Let’s talk food fitness! Involve your kids in meal planning and shopping. Teach them to read labels and help them understand what an appropriate portion size is. It’s okay to have a bowl of chips and salsa after school, it’s not okay to eat half of a large bag of Tostitos all by themselves. Let them help make the salad or stir the spaghetti sauce. Depending on their age, there is always some way that they can contribute to making dinner. Letting them pick one meal a week makes them feel like a valuable member of the family. Help them understand how to plan a healthy meal.

8. Model moderation and portion control for your kids. It’s okay to eat ice cream or other treats but in small quantities and maybe not every day. In our house, my kids are allowed one sweet treat each day. That might be a piece of candy, a couple of cookies or some ice cream. As long as kids are active, some sweets are okay. It’s all about teaching them moderation! Growing up, we were rarely allowed sweets and junk food, so when I went to college, I went crazy and quickly gained the Freshman Fifteen. It was years before I learned to enjoy all foods equally and that it was okay to eat some of everything. Now I like to have a little chocolate every day and enjoy it without guilt!

9. Be careful what you say about your body! Kids learn by our words and our actions. If you are constantly obsessing over being too fat or how important it is to be model-thin, your kids will too. This impacts both girls and boys, but girls are hypersensitive to how their moms talk about their bodies. What is being modeled by the mainstream media is not healthy. Talk to your kids about what a healthy body looks like and how being healthy makes you feel stronger, more energetic and better about yourself. It’s not about size, it’s about how healthy you are how and how you feel about your self. Show your kids that you are confident and healthy and they will want to model that in their lives. If you do need to lose weight, explain to your kids why, it’s about getting healthy and being there to see your kids grow up! February is Heart Health month, use that as a way to talk about why being overweight is unhealthy and how you are trying to make positive changes for your heart.

10. This is the most important point: make fitness and healthy eating part of your daily family fun! Live as active a lifestyle as you are able, don’t go run a marathon if you have never run or cut out all junk food today. Take small steps and make gradual, positive changes. Talk to your kids about why fitness matters. Their health is in your hands right now, explain to them why they need apple slices and not cookies. They get it when you tell them that food and exercise make them smart and strong. Don’t lecture (I know I have a tendency to do that) but look for ways to make food and exercise FUN!

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