This article was originally featured in Brigham Health Hub.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your family is to serve as a healthy role model. There are various ways to accomplish this, but many of the strategies are simple. Here are a few to consider:
Be Active as a Couple and a Family
When my girls were young, we would frequently hike together as a family, stopping to picnic on the trails. Being outdoors was a common theme for our family outings. In addition, hiking and playing tennis helped me to cope following my breast cancer diagnosis in my early 30s. My husband was my primary tennis partner while I learned this sport!
As our daughters became teenagers, we started to look for other activities that we could do as a family, especially in the winter. We chose to take up skiing. The weekend ski trips were fun and kept us engaged as a family. We would often join another local family with children of similar ages so we could travel and ski together. These activities helped our children to build independence and extensive interests in sports and the outdoors.
When I began biking in my 50s, my husband often joined me on long rides, and we continue to ride together. My Ironman events have encouraged our daughters in their adult years. Today, both of our daughters are highly athletic. Our younger daughter is a triathlete and road cyclist. Our older daughter teaches AcroYoga and participates in a wide variety of other challenging activities–including slack lines! After years accompanying me on my training, my husband reached a level of fitness where he could compete in triathlons, too.
Choose Nutritious Foods
While our culture is often driven by convenience, staying away from fast foods is vital to being healthy. In the house, we keep plenty of fresh fruits and nuts handy. When I go out, I try to pack a healthy snack. Peanut butter and crackers, carrots, cheese, a slice of bread, and an apple are frequent choices. If I purchase a treat, it is often a smoothie made with whole fruit and yogurt.
From an early age, we have encouraged our girls to cook with us and help us to plan meals. Family meals have always been an important way for us to spend time together and enjoy good food despite our hectic lives. Today, family reunions with my adult children focus on active adventures and preparing healthy meals together. Stir fry using vegetables from the local farmer’s market and brown rice or pasta make quick and wholesome meals. During the holidays, we prepare all of our meals from scratch.
Set an Example for Your Peers
I have found that friends and colleagues frequently take notice of my dedication to exercise and healthy eating. This has encouraged them to be active and healthy as well. Remember that exercise can be social, too. Not all of my rides are intense. Sometimes, I bike with friends, and we stop for coffee and chat, enjoying the scenery along the way! There are many groups that organize social rides.
Hiking, or simply walking, is a terrific outside activity that almost anyone can do. Take advantage of your local parks and trails. Connect with a colleague during a lunch hour walk. Consider getting together with other couples or families to go skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer.
Focusing on being active and enjoying life will encourage others to do the same!
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