Reinforcing healthy habits as the new school year begins

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Back to school time offers an excellent opportunity to introduce or reinforce healthy habits for yourself, as well as your entire family. Here are some ideas to keep you and your family’s health a high priority.

Elementary school-age kids
Habits that you help your kids create during this time can stick with them for the rest of their lives. They can help them to have energy by providing healthy options for breakfast, lunches and snacks. Encourage the consumption of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy (not junky) snacks, as well as pure water. Teach them the fundamentals of healthy eating. Involve them in meal planning and prep -- they love that. Make sure kids are getting enough sleep and limit screen time. Also, kids this age need consistent, unstructured movement and play; preferably outside in the fresh air. Create opportunities to get out and explore nature and climb some trees.

Middle- and high-school students
Kids this age are involved in all manner of activities besides their schooling, from music to sports to clubs and volunteer work. Then there is the increased level of homework and projects. Throw hormones in on top of increased responsibilities and additional stress and you have a potent mix. Help your teenager navigate all of this by providing healthy foods/snacks, enough downtime to relax and some type of consistent exercise. As kids get older, their sleep patterns can change.  If sleep during the week is compromised, have them make it up on the weekends. Check backpacks to make sure they are not too heavy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s weight. Pay attention to screen time and limit where appropriate. Lastly, teenagers have many issues to deal with these days and they still want and need loving guidance. Realize that they are going through many changes that can seem overwhelming to them, even though they will never admit it. Be physically present for them as much as possible. You never know when that important talk about drugs, alcohol, etc. will crop up.

With all of the responsibilities parents have, the time to manage one’s own health may seem non-existent. However, if you don’t take care of your health, it will be hard to take care of your family. Show your kids how important it is to take care of yourself; this can be one of the most important lessons you will ever impart. Maintaining a consistent exercise schedule will help give you energy and keep you calm. Plus, it will help you sleep better and control your stress. Make sure that your eating doesn’t suffer due to a busy schedule. Have healthy snacks on hand for those long days driving back and forth to activities. Make time to plan, shop for and prepare healthy dinners that you can all share together. Try to sit down at the dinner table all together as often as you can. We have always had a “no-electronics at the dinner table” rule in our house and our now college-age daughters still talk about how they appreciated that uninterrupted family time. Remember, your kids are watching you all the time. Make sure you are modelling healthy behaviors for them to learn from.

Dave & Deb Brown are NSCA Certified Trainers and the owners of On The Move Fitness Personal Training Studio located in Aspen Park. For information about how we can help you meet your goals and live a healthier life, call us at 303-816-1426, check out our Facebook page or visit www.onthemovefitness.com.