Maintaining good health is critical for everyone in the family, and if your child is brought up with good health habits and values, then they can grow up to become healthy adults who can easily look after their own well-being.
This even includes obesity, which unfortunately is not limited to adults. In 2007-2008, for example, some 10.4% of all American children aged two to five years were obese, and many children under age 18 today are overweight or obese, and children may become susceptible to diabetes and other health complications.
The good news is that it is never too late to revitalize your children’s health and you can either prevent obesity or, if your children are already too heavy, you can take safe and effective steps to get their weight right where it should be.
Better yet, a healthy lifestyle can also be fun and educational for your children, too.
Avoid Unhealthy Foods
Even if your children are fairly active, they may gain a lot of weight if their diet is based largely on fast food and highly processed foods. Ever since the 1970s, fast food has become a staple of American diets, but often at the expense of health. Such foods have a lot of added fats, oils, and most of all, sugars to make them taste good, but these additions pack on the pounds fast, even for young eaters.
You can limit or even eliminate these foods from your children’s diets, and read the nutrition fact on food packaging. Ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup are a red flag, for example, and you can talk to your family doctor about what else to watch out for.
The same is true of sugary drinks such as sodas, root beer, Gatorade, and the like, which often have a lot of high fructose corn syrup in them. Such syrup will add body fat much more than actual fat will.
Gross Motor Activities
There is no substitute for some good exercise, and all people young and old should and need to get regular activity, such as sports. Children are often enrolled in sports classes of all types to give them exercise, teach them good sportsmanship and team play, and of course, keep them busy and help them meet new friends and pursue a hobby.
Enrolling your child in a soccer or tennis course is a great idea, or even martial arts (which works out the entire body and teaches self-defense). Kids can also take swim classes during summer, and this cardio also works out the body a great deal and is great fun for most kids. That, and kids will be safer and less likely to be at risk whenever they end up in water.
Go for Family Walks
In addition to playing soccer or going swimming, you can bring your kids along to a family walk anywhere, from your own neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods to a local park or nature trail.
This is a fine chance to bring along the family dog too, who may enjoy the chance to stretch their legs. This is pretty common already, seeing how nearly 44% of all American households own a dog. Just brisk walking for a half-hour to an hour is often enough to satisfy the body’s need for exertion, and it’s a low-impact activity that can be done nearly anywhere.
Besides, many studies show that being exposed to sunlight and nature can cheer someone up, and have similar benefits to taking prescription drugs. Being in or near a small forest can have this benefit too, and Japan, this phenomenon is known as “forest bathing.” Why not give it a try?
Limit Screen Time
Many American youths are falling short of their exercise quotas not because they dislike sports or because they lack a nearby park or trail, but because they are preoccupied with electronic screens. True, television has been a fact of life since the 1950s, but now, the issue is more pronounced than ever, with youths spending hours each day using handheld gaming devices or mobile phones, or game consoles or PCs in their rooms.
This is nearly always a sedentary activity, and it can cause eye strain, too. Not to mention how all that exposure to blue light disrupts the brain’s sleep hormones and can, therefore, interfere with a healthy sleep cycle (this affects adults too).
The solution is straightforward enough: limit how much time your children spend using these devices, and if your children do not yet own their own mobile phones, consider putting this off for when they are older, such as 11-14 or even older. Many children face peer pressure to use and own these devices, but they don’t necessarily have their own best interests at heart. Different households and their rules vary, but you may consider offering computer or console time as rewards for finishing homework and house chores, and make sure that screens are not used past a certain time of night (due to blue light issues).
Have Some Boating Fun
It was mentioned earlier that children, like adults, can take swimming lessons at the local pool to exercise, have fun, and be safe in the water. True enough but don’t forget about natural bodies of water, too. Perhaps your family owns a boat, or you can easily visit the local marina to rent one. Some 15 million boats are currently used across the United States, and you can use speedboats for sports or pontoon boats for parties. While out on the water, you can go swimming (be safe about it), and enjoy the great expanse of a lake’s water.
You can try some more radical water sports too, such as wake surfing and wakeboarding, which require the use of speedboat that can go fast enough and create a wake behind them while moving across a lake. The athlete can ride behind the boat and stand on a surf board, and a wake surfer will be hands-free while a wakeboarder will hang on to handlebars that are attached to a rope coming from the boat. A wake surfer may hang onto a short rope as the boat gets up to full speed, then let go and start surfing. These have been popular sports since the late 1980s or so.
A household may get pretty dirty, and often in ways that are difficult to detect. For example, air quality may be much lower than you would think, and many children or babies may develop asthma or other respiratory issues due to constant exposure to VOCs, pollen, dust, and other airborne particles. Often, they come from dirty air ducts, or VOCs may be emitted from dirty carpets and rugs.
A carpet can soak up a lot of dust, dirt, and bacteria, after all. Not only should you regularly vacuum your rugs and carpets, but also use a rug cleaner that uses water and shampoo to perform a deep clean. The shampoo and spinning brushes will scour the rugs and carpets more deeply than vacuums clean, and you may be surprised by how much dirt is left after a vacuum was used.
At all times of the year, but especially flu season, make sure to wash hands regularly and ask your children to do the same, and wipe down commonly touched surfaces such as door handles and knobs, stairway railings, and even computer mice and keyboards, among others. Don’t forget to carefully clean the bathroom, too, as well as wipe down all windows and clean off the air vent covers.
Don’t forget dental health, either, since children are not always on top of that. You should take your young ones to a family or pediatric dentist regularly, and make sure that your children brush their teeth after every meal, using proper toothbrushes and toothpaste. An older child, if supervised, might even floss and use mouthwash, too.
Your children should be discouraged from chewing on hard items, such as ice cubes, and they should wear mouthguards while playing sports so they don’t chip or damage their teeth when and if they fall over or collide with something.
Keeping your children healthy is a broad topic that requires daily attention and care, but it can be done, and if your children have healthy teeth, a lean body weight, and play sports, then they will look and feel their best and grow up with great health habits in mind. That can really pay off.