Creating a Family Fitness Mindset

As adults, we understand the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle through fitness, eating right, managing sleep, and stress levels. Being physically active and eating well promotes disease prevention, allows us to maintain or achieve weight loss, reduces anxiety, improves performance at work and school, increases our lifespan, and enhances our day-to-day lives. For children, most of these things wouldn’t be considered significant but implementing these habits from an early age will help to ensure that these behaviors carry on into adulthood leading to a happier and healthier life. As parents, it is one of our core responsibilities to teach and instill these lifeways in our children.

For children, while many of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are similar to adults, there are increased benefits during the developing years that form a strong foundation for adulthood. Exercise improves motor skills, better thinking and problem-solving, stronger attention skills, and improved learning. This is because, physiologically, movement causes positive vestibular stimulation. The vestibular system is like traffic control for all the information the body receives throughout the day. Positively increasing stimulation enhances balance and self-regulation, improves muscle tone, increases visual tracking, and accelerates language and learning development.

Furthermore, exercise boosts the production of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor), which helps to sustain the life of your brain cells and helps create new cells and support synaptic plasticity. Exercising regularly is imperative for maximum brain development in children. By creating a solid base of habits early, we increase our kids' likelihood of carrying these behaviors into adulthood.

So how do we as parents implement the healthy family mindset? 

1. Be a role model
Model a healthy life. Exercise regularly, make good choices regarding nutrition, and take time for active family pursuits.

2. Provide healthy food choices
Have healthy food available in the house and incorporate them into daily meals. Life with kids means there will always be some junk food and desserts, which is ok, just not all the time. Allow them to enjoy the treats while making sure that they are regularly eating well. 

3. Highlight the benefits of a healthy lifestyle 
Talk to your kids about why it is important to learn to lead a healthy lifestyle. Your kids, especially at a young age, tend to believe everything that you say! Remember to stay positive when having these conversations. Tell your child the positive benefits of exercise rather than telling your child that they need to be active to lose weight. Conversations around food should be properly fueling the body for good health rather than telling them something will make them fat. 

4. Follow your child’s lead
Listen to your children, find out their interests, and support them in whatever activity they have a passion for. While you may prefer one activity and want them to do the same, their interest and strengths may be in something completely different. Participation in preferred activities will help ensure they stay on course. 

By sharing physical activity and nutritious foods, you provide your kids with a great gift that will last a lifetime!

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