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MomTalk.com November 23, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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It's Spring: Re-energizing your Family's Health and Fitness

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Spring and summer are great seasons to make sure your family is healthy and fit. Arguably, these months are the easiest time to establish healthy eating and exercise habits since we Minnesotans have no excuse not to come out of our winter-long hibernation. Having said that, sometimes the "plan" to make some healthier choices for our family does not turn into a reality: everyone gets busy and summer slips by, then it's back to school in the fall and when winter arrives all we want to do is go back to hibernation!


But wait, it's time to stop the cycle. Here are some activities that your family can incorporate into your routine THIS spring and summer to make sure you stay on a healthy plan:


Spring Body Cleaning Plan: It helps to keep a journal (or delegate it to your 10-year-old) for this plan. This is a notebook that you keep in your kitchen to keep track of whole grains, veggies, fruits, natural and organic, new foods, new recipes that you have tried that the family (or individuals in the family) like or dislike. You can also keep track of your family fitness activities as well as whose turn it is to choose activities or meals. Writing these in the journal helps you to stay accountable to your commitment to your family's health.


Fitness: The best way to keep your family active is to exercise together. Even though some of your children may be involved in sports, that doesn't guarantee that they are establishing lifelong health and fitness practices. Don't count on your school gym to provide the messages and practices that will instill a positive self image or an interest in physical fitness. Although it may not seem like a traditional workout to you, family outings can help create and establish a foundation of healthy practices for life along with the added benefits of having that evasive "quality family time." Active time can benefit you as well, your time is better spent playing with your children in the pool or lake, at the park, or on the basketball or tennis courts, rather than simply watching them play. Sit down with your children and ask them what they would like to do that is active, then make a wish list of 25 active outings you would like to do as a family in the next 6, 12, 18 months. Then check them off as you do them!


Fitness Tips:

*Keep tennis racquets, soccer balls, baseballs, bats, and gloves in the car make and impromptu stop in between errands.


*Ask for your birthday present to be a family day of rock climbing together, swimming or hiking together (followed, of course, by all the kids giving you a massage and then your husband cooking dinner).


*Make it a family tradition to do something active together at least once a month. Put the older kids in charge of planning the activities.


*For a household with younger children, create an obstacle course in the backyard or basement that the kids can run through. Remember, cleaning it up is also exercise.


*Bowling is a big hit when there are high stakes for the winner (like no chores for a week)! But remember to keep the competition "healthy" and remind the kids how important it is to have fun even when competing.


*Keep a swim bag handy with sunscreen and beach attire, ready to go at a moments notice.


*Keep ice skates in the car (you can rent too!) for those really hot days and try to catch an open skate time at a local indoor community ice arena (most are open all year round).


* Bike rides to a favorite picnic spot, a local park, or even the ice cream shop give all family members incentive to get moving.


* Plant surprise coupons in your child's lunch for a rainy day trip to an indoor park, and make sure you run around with them!


*Summer picnic outings can include a friendly family game of football, soccer, or badminton.


*Hiking is one of the best ways to work on balance skills for toddlers as well as keep your preteen/teen in touch with nature. Local nature centers, hiking trails, and the arboretum are all listed on the web.


*Walk through the zoo or a museum, encourage younger children to walk as well (even though it may take you twice as long to get through).


*Go exploring! You and your children may be surprised at what your neighborhood has to offer when viewing it on foot, rather than through the car window.


*Take family walks after dinner or on Saturday afternoons, no time requirements, just try to get the legs moving, even if it is for five minutes.


*Open gym times at many community centers provide a space for you and your kids to play some pick up games and let off some steam.


* Sprinkler fun can be a blast for kids of all ages; even your teen will get in on the action if you offer to let them douse you with water...if they can catch you!


Many of these ideas can be tailored to fit your family and its needs. You don't need equipment to go outside and play...just your imagination and some inspiration. Keep in mind, however, that surprise trips may be met with a groan (from young and old) because that's what your children (and husband) are preprogrammed to do. But don't give up, because once you get everyone there and start moving you may be surprised by how much your family enjoys being active together!


Food: Take Charge of your Kitchen! For the first three weeks, try to eliminate as many (preferably all) of the food items in your kitchen that contain high-fructose corn syrup and stock up on more fruits and vegetables. There are many recent studies that link the consumption of too much high fructose corn syrup to high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease. Read labels, you will be shocked to see how many items in your cupboard or refrigerator you may have to replace. Take the next three weeks and start replacing items made with enriched wheat or white flour with items containing 100 percent whole grains or even gluten-free products. This includes breads, bagels, tortillas, crackers, etc. Besides gluten, that many people, knowingly or unknowingly are allergic to, the enriched bleached flour is exactly that, wheat that has been bleached and depleted of most, if not all, of its natural vitamins and minerals. Even if they enrich it, it is done so synthetically, and combined with many additives that you just don't want in your family members' diets. Again, it is all in the label.


For the next three weeks, take ALL the soda pop out of the whole family's diet. This may be a hard change but when you do the research you will see that it is one of the best things you can do for your family members. The first ingredient in most sodas is corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup (meaning that it contains more of that than anything!). The phosphoric acid in soda has been proven to interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium (really frightening when you think kids and bone development). Furthermore, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners in diet sodas have been associated with numerous negative health side effects, not the worst being diabetes. Even when you go out to eat, teach and model better choices. Throughout the summer start investigating fats, they are essential in our diet, but look to eliminate trans-fats and saturated fats, and incorporate more polyunsaturated fats from fish, nuts, olives, and egg yolks. Yes, check the label! No need to clear your kitchen all at once because the change will be overwhelming and met with serious resistance...but there is a slow and sure way to reshape the way your family thinks about food. By "re-energizing" the food choices in your home, you will literally re-energize your family members. You may even notice positive behavioral changes, better sleep patterns, and overall healthier attitudes. The time to do it is now, when they are still eating in YOUR kitchen.


Quick Tip: Look for "ALL NATURAL" on food packaging. This can help you pick foods that contain more of the good stuff and less of the many unwanted ingredients. (But still check the label!)


Resources for active fun:


Westwood Hills Nature Center, St. Louis Park
Dodge Nature Center
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Pump It Up Party
Minneapolis Parks
Edinborough Park.com




by Lori Fhima


Lori Fhima lives in Minneapolis with her husband, four children, a dog, and a frog. She has been involved in the fitness industry for 26 years and has made numerous fitness videos for adults and children. She currently teaches group fitness classes at The Firm in Minneapolis, and continues to work with children and fitness through her company Lifelong Play, LLC. This company helps schools, health clubs, day care centers, and other youth organizations develop lifelong fitness curriculums. You can reach Lori at lifelongplay@gmail.com.



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