Professor and Coach Mike Hanik
Being healthy should be one of the top priorities for all families. Unfortunately most people do not realize the importance of being healthy until an issue arises whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Many families do not devote enough time or energy to staying healthy and this often leads to stress, conflict, and illness. Understanding the common health issues facing families and knowing how to avoid them can allow your family to flourish.
Not spending time together
It may seem like your family is going in a million different directions. There are music lessons, dance practices, sports practices and games, and church functions. These are all good things but they can also cause us to feel like our homes are just a place to sleep and grab something to eat. When families begin to spend time together family health improves. We communicate better with our spouse and children. We can listen to what is happening in everyone’s life and talk about the stresses we face. By listening and communicating effectively everyone in the family feels supported.
With busy schedules, how can families begin to spend more time together?
Plan to eat at least one more meal together as a family every week. Go on a family walk or hike at least once a week. Designate one night a week to playing board games or putting puzzles together. Spending more time together as a family can help strengthen the family bond and improve emotional and physical well-being. It may take some effort at first but in the long run the return is worth the investment.
Not enough Family Exercise
We know that daily exercise is important but many families fail to reach the daily recommendation for physical activity. There are many reasons people give for not exercising but the main ones are a perceived lack of time and lack of knowledge on how to exercise properly. The lack of regular physical activity is a major contributor to the chronic health issues that we face today. Lack of exercise contributes to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. None of us want to deal with these illnesses. We can decrease the risk of suffering from these diseases by adding as little as 20 to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity to our daily routines.
Not only do families get to spend time together when they exercise together, parents model a positive behavior to their children. Parents show their children they value their health and well-being. Plan a time to exercise together as a family. Spend 20-30 minutes exercising together when dad gets home from work. By exercising with your children you get to spend time with them and you save money by not having to go to the gym. Play tag, go for a walk together, play catch. Many times when we play together as a family our children get creative and make up some very active games. When exercise is made playful and fun even the most resistant child wants to jump in and be part of what is happening. Find activities that everyone can enjoy and start playing together.
Poor Food Choices
As a whole, we need to choose healthier foods for our families. The average family spends 5.5% of their disposable income on food to be eaten at home. They spend 3.9% of their disposable income dining out at restaurants. The average grocery store contains over 38,000 items. If often seems easier to pick up a meal at a restaurant or already prepared foods at the grocery store. Many times these are not the healthiest options. These foods are often contain large amounts sugar, unhealthy fats, and are highly processed. Just like the lack of exercise, poor food choices contribute to most of the diseases that are common today.
Families can change their eating habits by making small changes. Start by planning meals together. Sit down once a week and put a meal plan together. Add one new healthy item to the menu each week. It takes trying a food 20 times to know if we like or dislike it. Get a food chart for each member of your family. Put a check mark or sticker by that food item every time a person tries it. After 20 tries the person can decide whether they like it or not. Give your children a reward once they have tried a healthy food 20 times. You can also remove one unhealthy item from the menu each week. Reduce or remove the sugary beverages from your house. Often times it is the sugary beverages that account for many of the empty calories that are consumed. By teaching your children how to make healthy food choices you give them a great gift.
Building strong healthy families is important to everyone. It takes time and commitment to keep families together. Finding ways to spend time together is critical. When families eat together and exercise together they can strengthen the family bond as well as improve physical, mental, and emotional wellness.