Spouses and family members who share common goals are a great influence on each other, and when parents lead healthier lifestyles, their kids are more likely to follow suit.
Since we often share the most time, meals and activities with our loved ones, it makes sense to work together and make better choices.
A sure way to affect the health of the group is to take the lead. While your spouse, parents, kids, or others will need to learn to make better nutrition choices and participate in regular physical activity on their own, as a leader you can make it easier and more fun for everyone – including yourself!
To lead by example, begin with a simple list of small changes you can implement over time. You can create a poster or spreadsheet for your family member to follow along with your shared accomplishments.
You can also influence how others think and feel about nutrition, fitness, their bodies, and more. Be positive and demonstrate how you’re focusing on your own health and wellness. Approach the new lifestyle with more enthusiasm, not criticism or lectures.
Here’s how to be a good role model by sharing three healthy behaviors with your family:
Nothing brings better nutrition to the forefront more than shopping for and cooking meals. Make the most out of mealtime by choosing home-cooked food and avoiding convenience foods or the fast food drive-through. This habit alone helps hedge against obesity, known to lead to higher risks for health problems.
Your loved ones can learn to make better nutritional choices for themselves by understanding what goes into a good meal. Go grocery shopping together, and get rid of the sweets, snacks and soft drinks that you all are tempted by.
Make an effort to cook together, too. There’s a sense of pride in sitting down to a meal made by hand.
The National Health Information Center of the U.S. federal government recommends that kids get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and as adults we need at least 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. Ideally, exercise includes muscle-strengthening time as well as getting the heart rate up.
You might be covered for the minimum requirements due to your time at the gym, but what about your loved ones? For kids, play time used to cover those minutes and more, but with less time spent on bikes and skates, and more time spent with screens (see below) parents need to play a large role in helping their kids achieve these daily recommendations.
For adults, partnering up for fun activities like carrying the baby on your back for a nature hike, or necessary activities like yard work with grandpa, can provide a double benefit. The bottom line is, make regular activity part of your lifestyles.
Since the early days of television, the amount of time we spend staring at a screen has increased at alarming rates. Some studies show kids between 8 and 18 watch television for about 4.5 hours per day. Add to that other screens including computers, video games, streaming movies and cell phones, and those hours go up to 7.5 per day.
Because sitting in front of a screen is linked to childhood obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting children's media consumption to no more than one to two hours per day. And for working adults, especially those of us who sit at our jobs, the less sedentary we are in our free time the better.
Imagine giving some of those hours over to regular physical activity. It will be cherished “together” time for you and your loved ones, that can be far more memorable than evenings spent sitting indoors with passive entertainment.