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Healthy Tip # 89

Posted Jan 04 2013 6:05pm

Welcome to the category of my blog simply called ‘Healthy Tips.’ Many times, when I write articles for various publications, I need to find sources for the story as seen in Yahoo Shine ( click here ) or PBS ( click here ) about staying healthy. I was looking for experts and non-experts to chime in and give their favorite ‘tips’ to help kids and adults lead a healthy lifestyle.

The feedback for various stories was amazing. The sources had some fantastic points of view that could not be ignored, and I thought their opinions should be viewed on the Your Health Journal web site.

So, enjoy my new series, with some ‘great’ insight from some ‘great’ people giving exceptional and educational points of view.


Healthy Tip From Dr. Carmella Sebastian

Importance of families exercising together

So much of what we do as adults is influenced by how we were raised by our parents and the impact on our lives by our family unit. Our family culture: what we eat, how we worship, what we do on holidays, shapes the people that we become. The same applies to our physical activity. We do what we know. If a sedentary lifestyle is what we know, then that is what we will do as we mature and form our own family unit. In America we are now faced with an obesity epidemic that threatens our children, our economics and the Nation as a whole. A study published by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF): F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future was released recently.

In this ninth edition of the report, TFAH and RWJF found that If obesity rates continue on their current trajectory, it’s estimated that:

.. Obesity rates for adults could reach or exceed 44 percent in every state and exceed 60 percent in 13 states;

.. The number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10 times between 2010 and 2020 – and then double again by 2030; and

.. Obesity-related health care costs could increase by more than 10 percent in 43 states and by more than 20 percent in nine states.

.. But, if we could lower obesity trends by reducing the average adult BMI (body mass index) by only 5 percent in each state, we could spare millions of Americans from serious health problems and save billions of dollars in health spending – between 6.5 percent and 7.8 percent in costs in almost every state.

The family unit is the perfect “tool” to help our fight against obesity and the chronic illnesses it can cause.

Suggestions / creative ideas to get families to exercise together

Make exercise a normal part of the family day. This is easier to do when the children are pre-school and you are not in the car for much of the time bringing them to school functions and music lessons. But it is important at every stage.

For pre-school: play-dates with other children are great ways to expand the types of exercise to which children are exposed. Get together with some other moms and play kick-ball, bring the kids to a park or push the strollers in the park. Even if the baby is too young for the playground, you are instilling a sense of importance for physical activity from a young age.

When the child enters school (grade school), school activities start. The weekdays get very busy. Encourage your children to take part in one school sport or extracurricular sport. I remember that my girls tried about 5 sports each and only volleyball stuck for one and for the other one, basketball was her thing. On weekends, when there is usually more together time, get outside! Get away from the TV and go for a family walk, throw a ball…any activity will do. Beside the positive physical results, you will notice more talking, sharing, etc. If you do this at a young age, you’ll have less trouble as your child gets older and the cell phone becomes a permanent part of their hand.

In middle school, again encourage school sports. As a family, broaden your physical activity horizons: try skateboarding, in-line skating, organized family walks or runs. My husband is a personal trainer who started running
marathons a couple of years ago. I don’t run; I walk fast. We have participated as a family in community walks for charities. This sends a couple of messages: get outside and move and give-back to your community. The time spent together is priceless. My mother-in-law often joins us so we end up with 3 generations walking or running.

In high school, the amount of homework and extracurricular activities triples. Take a least an hour on the weekend to plan something that everyone can do together even if it is walking around the mall. Remember I have two girls! Teenagers may be pulled back in front of the TV, get a Wii or when watching a movie, insist that during commercial breaks, everyone gets up and does 50 jumping jacks and changes chairs. This will make it fun.

Reasons why families are not exercising together as much in our modern day era

This is such an interesting question. Of course the answer has many parts:

First, we as a society spend way too much time in front of the TV which we did not do decades ago. In addition, we now have our computers and cell phones that have become integrated into our daily lives both at work and at home. When we are on the computer, we sit! Studies have shown that even just standing (rather than sitting) can increase your physical fitness.

Second, cars! Remember when we walked everywhere? Now we drive to the grocery store that is less than a half mile away!

Third: we used to get exercise by working as a family on our shelter and obtaining food sources. I’m not talking about in the pre-historic time period, but of course that was true then. When I was growing up, my father had a garden every spring through fall. I helped him with yard work and loved working in the garden. I didn’t realize at the time that this was exercise. Hopefully, the push to bring back family gardens will encourage this activity. I was also responsible for chores around the house. That is an important way for us to teach kids about responsibility and get them moving at the same time.

Fourth: The focus of the family unit has changed. We seemed to be “present” more of the time “back in the day”. We are always focused on the future now: what college is your child interested in? What are you doing to get that next promotion at work? We really miss a lot.

I believe that eating dinner as a family at least 4 nights a week and exercising together can get us back to the basics and may just save our lives!

- Dr. Carmella Sebastian is a board certified internal medicine physician and nationally renowned wellness expert. She is also a former obese child who campaigns extensively on the dangers of childhood obesity in terms of the physical and psychological challenges that can impact the child’s health as an adult.

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