When I was really young, I remember I'd put on my tights and leotard, my mom would put on hers and Richard Simmons would get our hearts racing. I'd lose interest in those TV workouts after a few minutes, but my mom always included me in her exercise sessions. The message stuck. These days it's kickboxing at the gym for me and my teen daughter. (It's one of the only places she'll be seen with me in public.)
Benjamin Franklin said, "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." When parents and kids work together to embrace a healthy lifestyle, the kids are more likely to take those good habits with them into adulthood. That healthy lifestyle will not only reduce your child's risk of things like diabetes and heart disease later in life, but also stress and depression.
Here are 10 habits of healthy families:
1. Foot power
Create a no-drive zone around your neighborhood. This is the area in which it is reasonable for you and your children to walk or ride bikes, skateboards or scooters. Try to include in your zone fun stuff like your school, a playground or a place to get a sweet treat. If you need to drop off something to a neighbor or if your kids have a play date close by, then walk.
2. Drink water
Skip all the sugar and empty calories. Make water your default drink and drink plenty of it. Staying hydrated increases energy.
3. Sleeping is for more than just beauty
A reasonable bedtime is important for the whole family. Not getting enough sleep leads to fatigue, inability to concentrate, fighting and tantrums. It will affect your kids, too.
4. Here comes the sun
Get some sunshine and fresh air every day. Even in cold weather you should bundle up and take a walk around the block or sit and sip hot cocoa on your porch. From improved concentration to faster healing, spending time outside has been shown to have numerous health benefits.
5. Screen free
Limit TV and video game time. Instead, encourage family members to spend time using their imagination or working on and accomplishing a project. Accomplishing big goals or even small tasks leads to better physical and mental health and increased self-esteem.
Use your yard. Play games, grow a garden, eat outside, watch the sunset or sit and visit with neighbors.
7. Eat together
Make your meals fresh and cut down on eating out. Your family will consume less calories in a homemade meal. Dinner around the table is also a great time to strengthen family bonds. (If your kids want to eat, they have to talk to you.) A study from the University of Florida shows that family dinners have been linked to a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, eating disorders and an increased chance of graduating from high school.
8. Home grown
Whether it's growing vegetables, raising chickens or keeping honey bees, a little self-reliance in your food chain will teach your kids the value of hard work and give them gratitude for the stuff on the table.
9. Get moving
Exercise to promote a healthy family culture. If you take a walk, bike ride or hike together, your kids are more likely to continue those activities into adulthood. Make these activities family traditions and include them in your vacations. You'll make great memories along the way.
10. Pay it forward
Make charity and service a part of your family's healthy lifestyle. Service is usually an active event, like shoveling an elderly neighbor's snow, and also promotes, selflessness, gratitude and civic mindedness. Join an organization to provide weekly service, work hard on a large project or just look for little ways to help those around you.
No matter what you do, if you work together as a family to establish a healthy lifestyle, you're building the emotional traits that will lead your family to a happier future.