Health and fitness. The two things are different but they can be interconnected. Many things in our lives contribute to our overall health and fitness—from what we consume to air quality to our congenital composition to the level of stress in our lives. Some things we can control; others, we cannot. The following is a list of nine things we can control that will help us maintain our health, both mentally and physically.
Eat balanced meals. The food groups include the milk, cheese, and yogurt group; the meat, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and seed group; the breads, cereals, pasta, rice and other grains group; the fruit group; and vegetables group. According to the Kid’s World Web site sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, “We don’t need specific foods for growth and health, but we need specific nutrients that come from lots of different foods.”
The recommended daily amounts of each of from each of these foods are six to nine servings from the bread group, three to five servings from the vegetable group, two to three servings from the fruit, milk, and meat groups. Well-balanced meals include an item from each food group at each meal. (And healthy meals mean limiting foods containing nitrates, which we wrote about last month.)
But what counts as a serving? Six to nine servings of the bread group seems like a lot until you realize that one serving is one slice of bread, ½ cup of rice or noodles, three to four small crackers, or one pancake, according to NCSACS. A serving of vegetables is one cup of a leafy vegetable, ½ cup of a raw, non-leafy vegetables or ½ cup cooked vegetables. Most of our meals, whether cooked at home or eaten in a restaurant, consist of more than one serving of whatever we are having.
The second thing to do to promote good health is to drink lots of water. Water helps to flush impurities out of our bodies, as our kidneys need water to work properly. It also helps to keep our skin hydrated from the inside out. The recommended daily allowance of water is eight eight-ounce glasses of water. (An eight-ounce glass equals one cup.) After all, over half our bodies are water anyway and when we sweat, we lose water so we need to replenish it.
Limit your family’s sugar, sugar-free sweeteners and caffeine intake. Sugary, sweetened, and caffeine-containing products provide empty calories and sugary foods tend to be eaten in place of healthy ones, robbing our bodies of nutrients they could be getting from something else.
Exercise is the fourth important thing to do to maintain your health and fitness. According to author and exercise physiologist Greg Landry, exercise decreases blood pressure and blood level triglycerides. It increases metabolism, the strength of your bones, the oxidation of fat, your HDL (good) cholesterol, and your aerobic capacity. Exercise also maintains, tones and strengthens your muscles. Even light exercise, such as taking a walk, can make you feel great and can be a great family activity.
Keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet is the fifth thing you need to do to maintain your family’s health. In the case of an emergency, having the proper bandage or ice pack or Epi-pen on hand could possibly save your family member’s life, or at least provide some form of comfort until professional medical attention can be sought. All households should have at least one fully stocked first aid kit, if not one on every floor and one in every vehicle you drive.
Get regular yearly medical check-ups, including ones for dental, vision, and hearing. Regular visits to the doctor help prevent illnesses and health problems because they can be caught early instead of after the fact. Your doctor can also give your family advice about health and fitness, exercise, nutrition, and stress. Plus, your child needs check-ups to chart his growth and development.
Laugh and have fun. The old adage that laughter is the best medicine is true. Laughter makes your heart feel lighter and alleviates stress. According to author and therapist Marion Pietz, we are born with giggles, starting when we are just a few weeks old. “It has been said that a normal, healthy four-year-old child laughs, on the average, five hundred times a day. The average adult laughs, on the average, fifteen to seventeen times a day.” Maybe we should take a cue from our preschoolers and laugh more.
Rest. Take vacations and get fresh air. Our brains and bodies need to time to rest and recuperate from our busy lives, no matter how old we are. Everyone needs sleep. Everyone needs quiet time, but oftentimes we do not get enough. Set aside one weekend a month for your family to relax. Go for a drive to get a change of scenery and walk in the woods or through a field.
Lastly, we can maintain our health and fitness when we read because a healthy, thinking mind is as important as a healthy, active body. Reading exercises our eyes, causes us to think, and provides us with new information. It keeps our minds active and helps our brains stay fit. Reading provides nutrients for our minds.
Which is your favorite of these tips for maintaining family health and fitness? Or do you have a family health and fitness tip that you love that we didn’t cover? If so, write it in the comments below.