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Friday, May 29, 2015

9 Small Ways to Build Big Health for the Whole Family

Photo by Donald Lee Pardue (Flickr)

How much money would you have in a year if you saved all of your coins? Maybe you could afford a family getaway, your child's braces, or new home carpeting. That's because small changes can yield big results over time. The same principle holds true for your family's health. I found nine small changes that help my entire family achieve big health results, and they can help your family grow healthier, too.

Cut Out Soda

One can of soda can contain as many as 189 calories and eight to 10 teaspoons of sugar. You'll see a difference in your waistline, energy, and mood when you switch to seltzer, 100 percent juice, and flavored water.

Join a Family Fitness Program

Almost half of exercise program participants quit in the first six months, reports University of Illinois professor Edward McAuley. Stick with regular exercise as a family when you join a family fitness program at the YMCA, train for a local 5K race, or play in a co-ed sports league.

Bike or Walk Instead of Drive

Weekly errands are an essential part of life. However, have you ever left your car at home and biked or walked to at least one errand a week? This one substitution is good for your body, and the environment will thank you, too.

Eat More Veggies and Fruits

Can I tell you a secret? I add shredded carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms to meatloaf, tacos, and spaghetti. My kids don't notice the extra veggies, but I know they're getting the vitamins and minerals they need. You, too, can add veggies to your meals, offer fruit for dessert, and serve salad every night as you boost your family's health.

Prioritize Breakfast

My kids and I used to rush out the door without eating breakfast and then wonder why we were struggling mentally, physically, and emotionally all morning. Once I resolved to eat a fiber-rich and protein-packed breakfast like whole-grain cereal topped with Greek yogurt or scrambled egg burritos with a side of fresh fruit, we noticed improved concentration, less mid-morning snacking, and more energy all day.

Find Local Parks and Trails

If your kids are like mine, they'll have so much fun playing at a local park or hiking a local trail that they won't realize that they're also exercising. You'll have fun, too, as you enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and time together.

Engage in Active TV Watching

Watching TV shows together is a treat for our family, but research shows that a sedentary lifestyle could increase heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and depression. Stand up and dance, dust, vacuum, or run laps around the house during commercial breaks or set a timer and stretch every 15 minutes as your family engages in active TV watching.

Start a Family Garden

My kids love digging in the dirt, which is partially why we started a family garden. Don't tell them, but our garden is also a source of hard labor. Together, we're building strong bodies as we nurture fresh, healthy, and delicious produce.

Sleep More

Adequate sleep improves alertness, memory, and moods. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, teens need nine hours of nightly sleep, and adults need seven to eight hours. Going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night, planning a relaxing bedtime routine, and maintaining the same bedtime even on weekends can help your family receive adequate rest.

Making big health changes is challenging, so try nine small changes instead. They revolutionize your health in a big way and are easy and fun to do. Which one will you start today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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