So, you moved to Colorado, and decide to make some changes in order to enjoy the outdoors. We all know it starts with eating healthier and exercising more. But how?
During the coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves going through a time of change and chaos, which is making daily life challenging for many families. However, it can also be a time to reprioritize daily activities and make healthy choices a part of the family’s routine.
As program coordinator of Lifestyle Medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado, family nurse practitioner Suzanne Paul helps a lot of families get in shape. Together with a whole team of experts, including family nurse practitioner Stacie Schreiner, they are intimately familiar with the barriers to getting exercise as a family.
Paul and Schreiner offer these six tips for staying on track:
For most people, going from infrequent or little exercise to long periods of exercise every day is not going to be practical or sustainable — plus, it’s a good way to end up injured. Instead, set modest goals, like short walk with the family, and make them a priority. You can always work in more exercise as you go.
Set SMART goals.
At Lifestyle Medicine, the team uses the SMART system of setting goals:
- Specific: What exactly do you want to accomplish?
- Measurable: How will you know you’ve met your goal?
- Relevant: Does the goal make sense for your family?
- Timely: How much time will this goal require, and do you have the time?
For example, a family might decide to walk for 30 minutes a day, four days a week. “Then they can create a calendar and check those boxes,” Paul says.
Make it fun.
Some people like doing sit-ups and going running, but for those who don’t, there are plenty of other ways to get in shape. Even just getting outside for a while is better than, say, sitting on the couch and watching a screen or device. The Lifestyle Medicine team recommends exploring the options in your neighborhood, such as walking and biking trails. There are also great online fitness resources for children.
Limit screen time.
Limiting screen time may seem like a big challenge during this time when everyone is working and learning at home. Schreiner recommends scheduling screen-free breaks throughout the day. This is a great opportunity to get outside as a family and come back feeling refreshed and ready to concentrate on school and work.
Set limits on screen time and stick to them. “Then there’s no argument,” says Schreiner. “When the time limit is up, you turn it off. Then you have more time to spend together as a family, and it can be fun.”
Get plenty of sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can make you feel not just sleepy-tired, but physically fatigued, making exercise seem unappealing. “Getting sufficient, quality sleep is important for overall health, including school performance, behavior and weight,” Paul says.
During this time of uncertainty, it’s very important to establish routines and stick with bedtimes in order to maintain overall health. Have your child go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to ensure an appropriate amount of sleep.
Set a good example.
Kids mirror the behavior of the adults around them. Getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables, drink water instead of soda and increase their physical activity is often as simple as making these changes as a parent — and it helps if the extended family does, too.
“Have fruits and vegetables available as snacks throughout the day and avoid unhealthy snacks like soda, chips and cookies as much as possible,” says Schreiner.
Paul says, “Most of all, what can help is just living in the moment. Just spending time as a family and enjoying each other’s company can take focus off distractions and build bonds. It can also make doing activities as a family something parents and kids look forward to.”
During the current coronavirus pandemic, valuable time at home can lead you to the path of a healthy lifestyle. Often, it’s not in speeding up, but in slowing down where we find the most progress. If you are interested in learning more about the Lifestyle Medicine Program at Children’s Colorado, ask your primary care provider for a referral.
There’s even more information in the full article, Tips for Getting Fit and Healthy as a Family During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Read it in full at childrenscolorado.org.