Making time for a heart-healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. But, the good news is that making a few small, simple lifestyle changes can lead to heart-healthy habits that require little thought or effort. You know your family better than anyone, so use that knowledge and get creative in how you work heart-healthy habits into your family’s life and daily schedule. Whether you are married or a single parent, a stay-at-home parent or working, here are ways to make time for the whole family to be heart healthy:
Identify free time for activity. Keep track of each family member’s daily activities for one week. You’ll get a snapshot of when you might be able to get the family together for physical activity, and it can also help you see which activities you can cut back on.
Pick two 30-minute and two 60-minute time slots for family activity time. Weekdays are usually better for 30-minute activities, and weekends are better for 60-minute activities. Try to spread out the time slots.
Make time to plan a weekly menu, go shopping and prep your meals. Keep track of how many times you grab food on the go during one week. Once you find blocks of time when you can do a little planning, it’ll be easy to learn healthy preparation methods, fix healthy snacks and eat fewer fast and processed foods.
Simplify your family’s schedule. In today’s society, we’re expected to do it all. But, this type of nonstop lifestyle isn’t sustainable or healthy. Try prioritizing your activities, and see what you can do without so you’ll have more time for the things that matter. You can also work on stress management methods.
Take baby steps, not giant leaps. If you’re the head of your household, making sure that all the heads and hearts in your home are healthy is a lot to handle. The key is to take baby steps. Getting heart-healthy is a journey; you don’t have to do everything at once. Learn how to get heart-healthy one simple step at a time.
Ask everyone in the family to do their part. Depending on their age, kids can prepare healthy meals and help around the house. Treat your family like a team and encourage everyone to work together.
Live by example. We all need to do our best to walk the walk. If we want our kids to eat healthy and exercise, we’ve got to model that behavior. You’re not perfect, but if you’re determined and persistent, there’s not much that can stop you.
Here are some ideas to incorporate activity into your family’s routine:
Enjoy the great outdoors! Schedule a time each day for an outdoor activity with your children. Hike a local nature trail or ride a bicycle path.
- Join a team. Encourage children to join school or club sports teams.
- Schedule family playtime. Take a walk or play a family game of tag after dinner each night. Choose activities that require movement, such as bowling, catch or miniature golf.
- Choose toys wisely. Give children toys that encourage physical activity, such as balls, kites, skateboards and jump ropes.
- Limit screen time. Experts warn that one to two hours of screen time a day should be the limit for children, but some are logging more than double that amount. Set boundaries: keep the television and electronic media out of your child’s bedroom and limit computer usage to school projects.
- Plant a garden. Caring for plants gives your children a reason to get outside each day. Learning how to grow a garden teaches them about the food system, while sampling the harvest encourages healthy eating habits.
- Chip in with chores. Rake leaves, shovel snow and do other home-maintenance projects as a family. In the end, your home will be better off and so will your family’s health.