By Beth McKinney, Wellness Director, Spears Family YMCA

By February, people who made resolutions to exercise and eat healthy are realizing that it’s a commitment that takes effort. Don’t give up! Make healthy living a way of life for your family and 2018 can be the last year you make those resolutions.

Being active as a family is important right from the moment the test says “pregnant.” Your pregnancy will be healthier, your delivery will be easier and your recovery will be quicker if you do moderate exercise during the pregnancy but this is a time, more so than ever, that you want to discuss your activity with your health care provider to make sure you stay within his or her recommendations for your particular pregnancy. Prenatal yoga classes are available at many Greensboro yoga studios and offer a safe way to increase flexibility and strength plus help you relax and sleep better during your pregnancy.

When your children are preschool age, active play is the most important type of exercise. Toss and roll a ball, play hide and seek, go on nature walks. Greensboro is full of trails and parks for you to discover and explore. Pick out something to “keep an eye on” at the Bog Garden and take a weekly trip to see how the tree is blooming or if the owl is out. Just remember that activity shouldn’t be an “event” every time. A simple walk around your yard or neighborhood on a daily basis establishes the habit of daily activity and a toddler’s legs don’t need a 2-mile walk to get exercise! The one “formal” activity that is important for preschoolers is swim lessons. Living in the South, we are constantly around pools, lakes and the ocean. Children need to learn water safety from an early age and at a bare minimum, how to float. The YMCA of Greensboro offers reasonably priced swim lessons at most of its branches and winter is the best time to learn so that when warmer weather comes around, your family is prepared for safe water fun.

As your children enter elementary school, options for activity are endless. My advice for families is to let your child explore different options in recreational sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, and flag football that are offered at YMCAs and recreational leagues throughout the area. Dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, and martial arts are readily available at locations in the Triad. Many schools and some YMCAs have a running program called GO FAR (Go Out For A Run) which teaches healthy eating, setting goals and training for a 5K. Remember as your child tries these activities, he or she may have very different ideas about what they like compared to what you as a parent like. Try to keep an open mind and allow your child to be his or her own person (as long as that person is not always sitting on the couch watching television!)

Let your children see you take time for yourself to exercise. Join a gym that offers childcare so that you can bring them with you while you work out. Ideally the childcare area will have opportunities for active play so that they can burn off some energy at the same time. As a reward for good behavior in the childcare area, take them into the gym and run or shoot baskets or head to the pool for a family swim time. From the time they are born, focus on setting a good example of getting activity throughout the day and on a regular basis.

The other area in which you can set a good example is your eating behaviors. Remember the 80/20 rule of eating healthy 80 percent of the time. Try to achieve some balance – treats are not forbidden, but they should truly be treats, something you have once in a while. A bowl of ice cream every night is a habit, not a treat! Be careful about trying to eat healthy 100 percent of the time. It’s not realistic and can actually lead to poor eating behaviors later when your child has access to sweets or junk food and doesn’t know how to control or limit himself or herself.

Throughout the year, try to be active most days of the week and try to eat healthy most of the time and remember that little eyes are watching you so be the example you want them to see!

Beth McKinney is the Wellness Director at Spears Family YMCA. She is a Certified Group Fitness Instructor through the American Council on Exercise and a mom of 4 healthy, active (most of the time) kids!

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