The apple doesn’t fall far from the treadmill

South Africans desperately need to start getting a message across to their kids: Work out and eat healthily. According to the South African Heart Foundation:

“South Africa has the highest overweight and obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with up to 70% of women and a third of men being classified as overweight or obese.” It gets even more frightening: “This is no longer just an adult problem, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys between the ages of 2 – 14 years are overweight or obese.”

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“The simple answer is that the best way to fight these statistics is by setting a good example for youngsters,” says Ivana Buchanan, group training specialist at Zone Fitness. Which steps should parents take to ensure that their children have a healthy relationship with healthy living? Read on to find out.

Home is where the lard is

“We find that many newcomers to the gym have the perception that a healthy body weight and low pulse rate is determined solely by exercise, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Buchanan. “Losing weight and maintaining a healthy physique is all down to what you stock your fridge with.”

Opt for plenty of vegetables, fruit and lean meats (think chicken and fish) in moderation, not too much dairy and some whole grains. When you are at the supermarket, opt for whole foods; processed and pre-packaged meals are chock-full of harmful preservatives, sugars and unhealthy fats. Stay away from sweets, cool drinks and junk food.

“What is important to remember here is that, if you and your kids don’t enjoy the healthy diet you have planned, you are unlikely to stick to it,” Buchanan points out. “If, say, you don’t like broccoli but enjoy cauliflower, go for that instead.”

Determine the best workout for you

After you have taken care of dietary requirements, the next step is implementing an exercise regimen.

“As with your culinary preferences, stick to a form of exercise that you enjoy. If you have read about the amazing benefits of weightlifting, but swimming is more your thing, rather take up swimming. It will filter through to your kids and create the impression that exercise isn’t a chore, but an essential, enjoyable part of life. Help them to decide on a school sport of their choice if they aren’t yet old enough to join a health club,” Buchanan advises.  

One of the big tragedies of urban and suburban living is that families tend to live past each other throughout the day, and only gather for supper around the dinner table – or, more likely and worse, around the television. “Turn a workout into quality family time,” says Buchanan. “Going for a stroll in the evening, or a hike over weekends is good for your health and for building close family relationships too.”

Bad habits set bad precedents

Whether we care to admit it or not, our parents’ ways become ingrained in our psychological hard drives.

“Don’t smoke, take the stairs instead of the elevator, carry your groceries to the car by yourself, don’t go to bed late, take the dog for a walk. Your kids will notice, emulate you and, one day, thank you for making better choices that inevitably get ingrained into their mindsets,” Buchanan says.

They say youth is wasted on the young, but it needn’t be the case; set the right example for your children, and they will set proper standards for themselves. “The family that plays healthy, stays healthy,” says Buchanan.

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