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Family Softball Fun (350x309)I am a family member of the sandwich generation.  More importantly, I am paying attention to myself, my parents and my children on how we are all handling our health.  I can see the choices that everyone has made to this point and hope that the good choices outweigh the bad and that the bad are reversible.  I am learning quickly that no amount of money or “things” can bring family fun and joy if you feel bad every day.  If you make a choice to focus on health — healthy family living leads to family fun.

I realize also that it takes paying attention to your health starting in your 20’s — I remember my mom telling me after the birth of my first child “what you do for your health in your 20’s will follow you the rest of your life.”  She encouraged me to rest and allow my body to heal — I didn’t listen.  I thought that because I lost the pregnancy weight, that I was healthy.  I was not.  I was not paying attention.  I was not exercising and was eating poorly.  In fact, I was hardly eating.

It took me twenty years to get serious about turning my health around.  Although I have not suffered from anything major — I am feeling the effects of constant anxiety and have learned some new terms “dehydration” and “adrenal burnout.”  My parents have bodies that are giving out, my kids get a false sense of youth being invincible.   I ran a half marathon in 2012 and wish I had wanted that goal earlier in my life.  In fact, I wish I had been a better role model for my parents and my kids with better nutrition and regular exercise.   Another do-over wish — Family Hikes and Family Cooking.

Bike Riding For Exercise (350x242)

I started listening to a great podcast about a month ago that gives very simple strategies on nutrition, drinking water and exercise.  I have become a huge fan of Shawn Stevenson and his weekly The Model Health Show.   I have a habit of becoming very enthusiastic very quickly and then losing interest but with this podcast I am taking a few tips a week and trying to make slow changes.   I would like to avoid my body giving out, becoming dependent on medicine or leaning on information from my past history to decide my health fate.   I have never believed that it is too late to focus on health.   So here are my seven ideas on how healthy family living can lead to family fun:

1.  Find some local trails and set up days for a family hike — start when the kids are young and enthusiastic — hike a little farther each time.   Include the grandparents and they will have some quality time with all of you.

2.  Cook together as a family and work toward reading labels and cooking homemade food.  Pick a certain day every week and have all family members bring ideas and recipes to create a grocery list. Include the kids from an early age with grocery shopping — not only will they learn nutrition but if you add a budget amount, they will learn spending habits that will last their lifetime.

3.  Talk to your spouse (or your significant other) about your goals for health.  When you work together as a team, you hold each other accountable and exercising can be an activity that you not only do together but creates a habit that you will miss if you skip it.

4.  When everyone seems to be sitting and watching TV, gather up a basketball, football or soccer ball and go to the park.  It’s free and sometimes everyone just wants to run and laugh.   I also spent many weekend days at the ball park when my kids were involved in sports.   I realize now that instead of just sitting and watching practices, I could have been running the track that always surrounded the fields.

5.  Try a new activity as a family.  Kids don’t always want to be told how to do things.  It will help them to see you learning as well.   I never could snow ski as well as my kids and they got great laughs from that.

6.  Replace water for soda, juice and just about anything.  Make a huge pitcher of water in the morning and for variety place cucumber, strawberry, lemon or orange slices in it for taste.  It is probably the simplest and most effective nutrition habit to start with your family.

7.  Laugh often and create fun on your family calendar.  Signing yourself and your kids up for activities is good but don’t forget to just do the simple things like playing games, watching movies or reading books.  Give each family member a choice of what activity they want to do and make it happen.  Learn to be spontaneous.

What family activities have you created?  How is your family having fun while staying healthy?  What can you add to your week that will make a small but lasting change?

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