Fall family health and fitness

It’s Friday—so how about doing something healthy this weekend and enjoying what the season has to offer?

For example, take time to re-energize with family or friends. When we are too busy and distracted, it can be difficult to make good choices particularly concerning our health. I think our children—and ourselves as adults—often participate in so many activities that we’re all pressed for time. So it’s much easier to grab fast-food or a snack on the go instead of sitting down to a family meal or something homemade.

Those quick “grab & go” options are convenient and time-saving, but we miss out on valuable opportunities not only to teach our children about healthy eating and meal planning, but also to spend quality time together enjoying one another’s company.

My sons have been involved in organized sports since they were very young. It’s gotten better with time, but especially when they were younger, practices and games always ended with team snack time. Parents rotated snack duty. There would often be orange slices available during the games, but at the end of the game, out came the sugary juice boxes, cookies, crackers, or chips because they were prepackaged and convenient—and because that’s what the kids would eat. I’ve seen kids turn up their noses and refuse healthier snacks if they were provided.

Before joining Diakon, I spent more than 10 years as a year-round swim instructor. Many times, if children came to lessons crying and fearful about swimming, their parents would bribe them with promises of a trip to McDonald’s or ice cream after the lesson. So the activities and sports get our kids moving and active and they learn wonderful life skills such as teamwork, sportsmanship, and motor control, but we then teach them a different set of lessons when we reward them with unhealthy food.

We also have to remember that we are role models for our children. If they hear us complaining about exercise being painful, that healthy food doesn’t taste good, or that we’re somehow bad or naughty if we slip up on our “diets” or skip a workout, our children quickly pick up on such ideas and emulate them.

Because families are so busy these days, how can they work health and fitness into their schedules?

The first step is to be aware of the need for it and to make it a priority.

The second is to realize fitness does not have to be a time-consuming, all-encompassing major event. I’m a big believer that it does not have to be—and should not be—painful. If it’s painful or uncomfortable, we’ll naturally avoid it. And if exercise feels like work or a chore, we’ll also avoid it.

Keep exercise small and simple but, most importantly, make whatever you choose to do fun! As long as we’re off the couch and moving around, it counts as physical activity and will contribute to overall health and well-being. Often, just making a small effort for a short amount of time will give us enough momentum and motivation to move more.

That’s a much more rewarding feeling than planning a huge workout and falling short. And if it’s fun and relatively painless, we’re more likely not only to do it, but also to stick with it.


What fun fall activities can families do together to stay healthy?

•    Rake a pile of leaves and jump into it—adults can do this too!
•    Take a walk or a bike ride and notice the way the leaves are changing color or the way neighbors have decorated for Halloween or Thanksgiving.
•    Decorate pumpkins together. Paint them if you want to avoid using knives; the pumpkins will last longer that way.
•    Visit a pumpkin patch or a corn maze; there are plenty of those.
•    As the leaves come down, see how many different leaf shapes or colors you can find. Use crayons and paper to make leaf rubbings.
•    Play a family football game or just play catch.
•    Check into any 5k runs in your area. Train together as a family leading up to the event.
•    Go apple-picking and then make healthy treats with the apples you pick. Depending on ages, children can do the mixing and measuring and so on.
•    Take advantage of indoor pools in your area. Some senior living communities hold a monthly “family swim.” But hotels, fitness centers and colleges also may have facilities you can use for a nominal fee.

Do you have activities you would add to this list? Please feel free to share them in a comment below.

Brenda Staley
Wellness Coordinator
Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown

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