Originally created 06/02/04

6 Steps to a healthy mind, body and spirit

The sun is out, school is almost out, but is your family out?

Georgia and South Carolina have some of the highest rates of obesity in the U.S. as well as some of the highest rates for stroke, heart disease and diabetes. If that is not enough to make you and your family want to get out and be active, consider that exercise will help you have a healthier mind, body and spirit.

Yes, exercise. The word tends to make us groan (remember all the times we made New Year's resolutions that never worked and left us feeling uninspired?). Well, I have news for you: Exercise can be fun! Here are some tips to help you and your children get out and be active.

Plan to have fun

Exercise can include activities as simple as walking in the mall to as difficult as running a marathon. Find something you enjoy and then keep doing it.

Start small and be specific

All great accomplishments start with a small change. By starting with small specific changes you are more likely to have success. Consider a 15-minute family walk on Sundays. Try an activity chart on the fridge to track how well you are doing. Tell your spouse you are going to do 10 jumping jacks every morning before you shower. Congratulate your child when he or she runs in the backyard with the dog. Whatever you choose will be a great start!

Have a buddy

Once you decide that you want to be healthier and feel better, share your plans with a buddy. Family members and friends make wonderful exercise buddies because they are fun to be with and available. You may wish to create a walking group of three to four moms who take turns watching the children for 30 minutes while the others go walking together and socialize. You may want to have your children meet weekly at the park or participate in organized sports. Or you may want to teach your child to play one of your favorite sports, such as baseball.

Exercising with a buddy provides a source for encouragement and responsibility that makes you more likely to succeed.

Expect to make mistakes

Changing habits may be the hardest thing you have to do. Expect to succeed, but realize that setbacks may occur along the way. Your child may be sick one day and miss soccer practice. You may not have time to go running for a whole hour. Your child may have too much homework one day to get outside. Realize you can be successful, congratulate yourself for the days you have accomplished your goals and then keep trying.

Try new activities

Feel like you are stuck in a rut? You may be. Try a new hobby or activity. Get excited. There are plenty of new things still left for you and your child to try.

Get outside

Now is the time to get outside for the beautiful weather. Sunshine can improve attitudes and feelings of health even without strenuous exercise.

Limit TV, video games and computer time

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends limiting TV, video games, movies and computer time to less than one hour a day. This leaves more time for imagination, activity and exercise.

These are just a few tips to help you and your family become more active. Please check with your physician regarding any special circumstances or medical conditions before you apply the tips listed above. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you out and active!

Dr. Sarah Judd is a pediatric resident and a member of the MCG Child Advocacy Group at the MCG Children's Medical Center.


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