Family Health & Fitness Day: Passing Along Our Greatest Legacy
By Maria Jauhar, M.D.
There’s background music playing in the heart of most every parent. We want to provide our children with prosperous, healthy lives. If we can pass it on a little better than we knew it ourselves, so much the better. Our health habits are often overlooked when we consider what to give our children. Yet these may be the most important legacy of all.
Nowadays, it’s rare for a family to keep the same home from generation to generation. People are advised to expect more than one career in a lifetime. Wealth is notoriously vulnerable to outside influences. The things people handed down to their children throughout history are now mostly that – history.
But health and fitness is a distinct exception.
A Day of Celebration
September 24 marks the 20th year of Family Health & Fitness Day. “Our goals for Family Health & Fitness Day are to emphasize the importance and fun of regular physical activity and to encourage families of all ages to take advantage of the many health and fitness programs offered in their communities,” said Pat Henze, FHFD director. Organized by the Health Information Resource Center, it is observed annually on the last Saturday of September.
Most of today’s threats to longevity have a behavioral component. What we do regularly has a lot to do with how long we live. How much we enjoy living stems too from what we focus on, and the building blocks of what we call quality of life are found in what we do every day.
With that in mind, what are we showing our children?
The chance to do better is huge. The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health said children 12 to 21 are not exercising nearly enough.
Rates of childhood obesity and the threats that come with it, including diabetes and high blood pressure, are alarming. By 2012, fully one-third of children and teens were overweight or obese. Over the course of 30 years, obesity doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. And it strikes at ever-earlier ages. Obesity in children 6 to 11 has gone from 7% to 18% since 1980.
There are many causes, including sedentary interests and fast food, and therefore many solutions including placing parental limits on “screen time,” packing lunches and demonstrating a healthy diet at home. Heredity plays a part, but DNA is not destiny. Most of the causes of childhood obesity can be changed.
The Prescription is Fun
Exercise is one solution with wider benefits than simply working down the checklist of problems. In fact, FUN is the best approach to childhood exercise. Demonstrating and encouraging the delights of games, community parks, walking trails – just getting up and getting outside – is a good place to begin, and begin together. Starting young is a tremendous advantage too, because it’s much more difficult when the age of “cool” sets in.
Your Ally: “Doctor’s Orders”
You can gain focus on your family health and fitness initiatives by beginning with a trip to your family physician. The findings of a physical exam could be just the thing for getting the idea across to children. For adolescents a doctor’s say-so could outweigh the cool factor and get your dialogue going. And if you don’t have a family physician, then we’d like to help. To schedule an appointment with us, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.