by: Nan Gibbons (@healthnut2011)
As a personal trainer with a degree in exercise physiology and nutrition, living a healthy lifestyle is not only a personal passion, but my professional vocation as well. As a mother, I am dismayed at the exponentially-growing rates of childhood obesity. According to the CDC, the prevalence of childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last three decades, increasing from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008.
My son learned the importance of a healthy lifestyle at an early age, when I incorporated him into my workouts with the help of "mommy and me" pilates videos. Sitting on my belly as I did my exercises provided a bonding experience, but also showed him the importance of fitness in my life. Now, at the age of three, Reid likes to seek out my five-pound hand weights and lift them overhead to "exercise". He doesn't even fully understand the benefits of regular exercise, yet this word is already a part of his vocabulary.
Now admittedly, my staunch advocacy of this issue has influenced him in a way that most other children would not be, but this illustrates the primary point of this article—namely, that you are never too young to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact I would argue that the younger you start your child in understanding and appreciating the importance of a healthy lifestyle, the more likely it will be that this will become second-nature to your child.
There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about teaching children about fitness, and encouraging them to exercise. A good friend recently posted on Facebook that she was concerned that her daughter—who is 11, by the way—was beginning to develop an unrealistic body image; she was worried that her daughter would develop an eating disorder and asked for advice. I suggested that she involve her daughter in a healthy exercise regimen and teach her about proper nutrition, and my advice was immediately rejected as one that would lead to anorexia and compulsive exercising.
However, safe exercise has been shown to offer countless benefits to children, including an increase in muscle strength and endurance and bone strength, protection from muscle and joint injury, and a boost in metabolism (which leads to healthy weight maintenance). With all of these health benefits come an improvement in physical performance, and a consequent improvement in self-esteem.
But what about if you weren't taught these lessons as a child? Is there such a thing as "too late" to begin a healthy lifestyle? The answer is an emphatic and resounding "no!" Many adults mistakenly believe that, if they have never lead a healthy lifestyle, "the damage is done," but a recent study from the Medical University of South Carolina shows otherwise.
According to researchers, there are four parts to a healthy adult lifestyle: consuming a minimum of five fruits and vegetables every day, exercising at least 2 ½ hours per week, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. Adults who implemented these four simple lifestyle choices in their daily lives showed overall health improvements. It didn't matter whether they were 20, 40 or 60—the changes were noticeable, and reduced the risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes by significant amounts.
Many adults worry about starting an exercise routine. They fear injuries, reasoning that their bodies are not as resilient as they once were. What they don't understand, however, is that proper exercise strengthens their muscles, joints and bones, and lessens the chances of injuries. In the event of an injury, there are many flexible options when it comes to health insurance—ranging from the health savings account to copay plans—that lessen the impact of possible injuries on your pocketbook, and increase the likelihood of a rapid recovery.
So, the question shouldn't be whether you should be making these healthy changes in your life and the lives of your family members, but how you should do it. The key is to do everything in moderation. If you go from living a sedentary life to bodybuilding, you will either injure yourself or burn out. If, however, you start slowly, and persistently work toward your goal, you will achieve the desired results, and your children—who watch everything you do—will learn the importance of persistence and hard work, and will emulate your actions in their own lives. This will effectively break the cycle of unhealthy behavior, and will lead to a strong generation of youth, both literally and figuratively speaking.
About the author: Nan Gibbons is an on the go girl - a personal trainer with a degree in exercise physiology and nutrition , always looking for an endorphin rush or fitness tip! Jetsetter, single mom, biz owner & fitness advisor! Follow me - if you can keep up!