HEALTH and Wellness It’s a family affair! Perhaps you’ve heard of studies that inform us that we in the United States have come to a point where our younger generations will not live as long as …
HEALTH and Wellness
It’s a family affair!
Perhaps you’ve heard of studies that inform us that we in the United States have come to a point where our younger generations will not live as long as we “Baby Boomers” have, nor will some of these up-andcomers have the quality of life that older generations have come to enjoy. There are several factors at play here, economics, access to health care, local issues, etc. I can’t speak to any of these items well, as that would be like the comedian Steve Martin used to say, “Criticize Things You Don’t Know About”! (Love that guy!) But I can speak a bit about health and wellness, and I can speak a bit about how family dynamics help to shape children’s health and well-being now, and as they grow and age. Kids look up to their parents, and even though parents of teenagers may disagree with me, they actually do listen to you! Kids see what you do, and do what you do. Youngsters don’t know how to make healthy choices. They really don’t know what healthy eating is, or how important physical activity is for them. Parents, you are influencers, and can help shape your kids’ choices and decisions on being physically active, and eating a nutritionally sound diet.
The Journal of Nutritional Education and Behavior came out with a study titled, “Validation of 5 Stage-of-Life Measures for Parents’ Support of Healthy Eating and Activity.” The children involved int the study were ages four to ten years. Here’s a breakdown of each of the five stages: Stage One: Parents can increase and measure the servings of fruits and vegetables their kids eat each day. These foods contain dietary fiber, and a healthy fiber intake is linked to a lower incidence of disease, also keeping the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract healthy and happy, preventing things like constipation and colon cancer later on in life. Fruits and veggies are “bang for the buck” foods, supplying essential vitamins and minerals, and powerful antioxidants, or anti-inflammatory agents that help protect the body.
Stage Two: Parents can encourage physical activity, and limit TV and device time. By encouraging play time, parents are helping “kids to be kids”. Kids naturally want to move. They explore. They check things out. As kids get into the tween and teen years, they may have interest in a sport, be it individual or team. Sometimes these “older” kids can even act as coaches and mentors to the younger ones, playing right along and moving together.
Stage Three: Parents can be the “do as I do, and not as I say” role models for their children by joining in on at least a half-hour of shared physical activity at least five days a week. If a parent had a sport or activity they used to enjoy and partake in, maybe it’s time to “dust off the fillin- the-blank” equipment, or training schedule, or at least the interest! Walking, hiking, biking, camping, horse back riding, swimming, fitness classes, there are so many family-friendly activities to enjoy with your children, and what a great time to connect with your kids, and find out what’s going on with them, and they with you!
Stage Four: As much as an increase in fruit and veggies is important to a child’s diet, so is a decrease in the amount of sugar, salt, and fat your child eats each day. Too much sugar in a diet has a direct link to diabetes later on in life, and sugary foods and beverages erode tooth enamel, causing cavities, and poor tooth and gum health. Also, too much sugar in a child’s diet affects their mood, possibly causing depression or anxiety. Too much fat in a diet will lead to artery and heart disease. A talk with your nutritionist, or doctor can help parents navigate a balanced diet for their family.
Stage Five: It all comes back to parents, and other significant adult adults in a child’s life being the health and wellness role models that can affect how a child learns to make decisions and choices that create an entire lifestyle for optimum health over their lifespan. I know that this may not be easy for some families. In hard working families, parents can be pressed for time, and it could be difficult to find the space to share physical activity with their kids, but I’d ask to please try. Try to find, within your schedule, some place to carve out at least 20 minutes or so to move with your kids on a consistent basis. If you could schedule 6:30 p.m. on each Tuesday evening, for example, and know that this is doable for your calendar, then that’s a terrific place to start. If locating fresh fruits and veggies is difficult or time-consuming, frozen or canned items items will be just as healthy, but check the ingredient labels to make sure that added sugar, or salt isn’t included in the product. Try not to rely on TV or devices as a “babysitter”. Share screen time with your kids when possible, and try to set a “curfew” or time limit on how much your kids will be engaging with these devices. If it’s truly a hardship to incorporate any of these suggestions into your lifestyle, dear parents, then is there another significant adult or group that can assist in these endeavors? Is there a way to build a “Health Posse” for your kids to be available when you can’t be?
Our kids are our future. Face it, they’ll probably have to take care of us at some point, if we’re lucky! If we adults can “walk the walk, and talk the talk” of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle, we’ll help to create future generations where good health and wellness are just part of the game. We’ll all come to appreciate what it means to be healthy in body and mind, and not take this gift for granted. By creating healthy kids, we actually can become healthier ourselves. Talk about a “win/win”! Cheers and be well.