Surrounded by the sounds, sights, and even the smells of Christmas, we are in search of that perfect gift for family members and friends. I would like to share thoughts this month about a very unique gift, the gift of “building a healthy family.” You may want to check your Christmas lists again to see if the choices are helping you build a healthy family.
I have come to realize just how much of a gift “good health” is to those around you. I am in the “sandwich era” of my life where the “good health” of my parents is a daily gift to me, and so is the “good health” of my kids and grandkids. My good health is a blessing to them. We each have a part to some extent in our good health or lack thereof.
Obesity in children has become an epidemic. The number of overweight children in the United States has more than doubled in the last two decades. Obese children are now developing diseases like Type 2 Diabetes that previously affected only adults. Overweight children continue to be at risk for developing heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
The major contributors to the obesity epidemic in children are poor eating habits and inactivity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that unless kids start eating less and exercising more, one in three American children born is expected to develop Diabetes. The gifts you give this Christmas could be a new beginning toward building a healthy family.
Children learn best from example. If you want active children, you need to be active yourself. According to the American Dietetic Association, fewer than six percent of children engage in daily physical activity with a parent. In comparison, 29 percent watch TV every day with a parent.
Dr. Edward Laskowski, a specialist at the Mayo Clinic, says, “There are a lot of reasons why children are less active today, but the biggest culprit is the television set, followed closely by video games and computers.” Studies have shown a direct link between obesity and the number of hours spent watching TV. The American Pediatrics recommends limiting TV and video games to a maximum of two hours per day. So, you might want to take that Christmas list, mark out some of the culprits that will only add to more inactivity, and choose sports equipment, or new bicycles for the entire family.
A real key to building a healthy family is to promote activity, not exercise. Some good suggestion to establishing more family activity is:
- Make an after dinner walk a habit. Put on your walking shoes and head out the door. It’s a great time to catch up on each person’s day.
- Go for a family bike ride . Pack a picnic lunch or dinner and ride to a nearby park.
- Play with your kids . While you’re at the park, don’t just watch. Join the kids in a game of hide and seek, tag or hopscotch.
- Put a basketball goal in the driveway – and use it. Challenge your kids to a friendly game of Horse.
- Sign up for organized sports if soccer, volleyball or another team sport interests your child. Then support their interest by not only attending their games, but also by helping them practice.
- Plan family vacations that involve activity. Climb a mountain, hike a trail, canoe, ski, or swim. Make physical activity fun!
- Assign physical chores. Have the children help with raking, lawn care, vacuuming and other chores that involve physical activity.
- Walk, don’t drive. Use the “less than a mile rule.” If you’re going somewhere that’s less than a mile, walk when can. If your child’s school is less than a mile, start a “walk pool” instead of a car pool and take turns walking the children to school.
- Walk the dog. Maybe the gift of a new dog is a great idea. Allow the child to walk the dog, and then involve your child and dog in a game of Frisbee.
- Go bowling. If family night out involves the local pizza parlor, go ahead, but then include a physical activity like bowling or miniature golf afterwards.
You have probably recognized many great gift ideas such as sports equipment, proper clothes for different activities, bikes, or a new basketball goal intertwined in these great suggestions. Planning activities may be the best gift you can give your family this year. Activity doesn’t just happen. Take the word “exercise” out of your vocabulary. By helping your children enjoy fun, physically exerting activities, you will be giving the precious gift of healthy habits that last a lifetime.
May God Bless You With a Very Merry Christmas!
First Place Associate Director
Kay is the associate national director of First Place and has been on the First Place staff since 1987.
Kay is a popular speaker at retreats, seminars, Conferences, FOCUS Weeks and Workshops across the country. Kay is the First Place food exchange expert and writes a monthly article in the First Place E-Newsletter on nutrition. She also was a contributing writer to the Today Is the First Day devotional book. Her delightful personality and love for people endears her to everyone she meets, and they quickly become her new best friend.
Kay and her husband, Joe, live in Roscoe, TX. They have two children and five grandchildren. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit, and the three oldest grandsons are all involved in numerous sporting events, which Kay and Joe attend as often as possible.