February is all about hearts. Yes, February 14 is Valentine’s Day. February is also American Heart Month.
Dr. Jenny Delfin of NYU Langone Medical Center, one of the top-rated cardiology practices in the United States, says that while some problems are genetic, a large percentage of patients could have avoided prescriptions or surgery if they had exercised regularly and maintained a healthy diet. That’s the primary reason Dr. Delfin got involved with our program, Adventure to Fitness. We believe that by starting kids on a healthy path early in life, we’ll provide the fundamental knowledge and desire to maintain it for life. Otherwise, heart disease will likely remain the #1 killer of both men and women.
So how do we live heart-healthy lives?
While I won’t try to claim that it’s easy to be 100 percent healthy every day, the steps themselves are straightforward:
Eat a heart-healthy diet.
This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein (such as fish and chicken). Here’s a simple chart that you can use with your kids:
Valentine’s Day typically involves lots of candy. Try to limit the candy gifts this Valentine’s Day with your kids and encourage them to try different, creative gifts. Depending on your kids’ ages (or if you’re willing to shoot for the clever / funny / “cheesy” angle), you can try:
- A Cutie clementine with a note saying “You’re a cutie!” or “Peel the love!”
- A banana with a note stating “I’m bananas for you!”
- A pear with the slogan “We make a great pear!”
Don’t worry — I’m going to buy my wife another gift as well (though I’m sure one of the above will at least warrant a chuckle).
As you probably know, kids are supposed to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity EVERY day. The benefits go beyond health; regular physical activity has also been shown to improve children’s attitudes, behavior, and cognitive abilities.
Make sure your kids have regular activities in school and outside school to get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day. Research has also shown that kids maintain this behavior better when it’s done with family members and/or if they have examples of active adults. Here are some ideas:
- Team sports like basketball or soccer
- Individual activities such as dance or tennis
- Family events including hikes, bike rides, touch football, or fun competitions (e.g., who walks the most steps in a day)
Every child is different in terms of interests and athletic abilities. Every family has different schedules and access to different sports or local facilities. The important part is simply the daily physical activity, which can be accomplished in a variety of ways. By making the activities fun and engaging, you increase the likelihood that they actually happen and that they’re maintained.
If you’re looking for easy indoor activities (e.g., early-mornings on the weekend or rainy days when you’re stuck inside), try Adventure to Fitness. The whole family can take part in adventures around the world, while also moving and learning.
Most people can’t eat perfectly or work out every day. Kids will get sick and our family schedules can get crazy. Just make healthy eating and regular activity the norm. Talk about it as a family and you’ll often be able to find solutions, even during busy holidays or weekends packed with birthday parties. If not, don’t beat yourself up. Remember, we’re not trying to set impossible goals for our kids but rather, put them on a healthy path for life. This is much more likely if we’re realistic.
Show your love for your family members this Valentine’s Day by teaching them heart-healthy steps for the rest of their lives!