How Healthy is Your Home?
At the Y, we believe that healthy living begins at home. The relationship between parent and child can be the primary source of health in a young person’s life and a powerful motivator for adults to build more health-supporting activities into their own lives. Healthy Family Home is the Y system’s resource of helpful information, tips and tools to support parents and families in their efforts to practice the art and science of healthy living.
As we have done since writing our first Parent Express article in May of 2005, we’ll make this an engaging and experiential piece. The foundation of this article is one of our Healthy Family Home resources, the HOW HEALTHY IS YOUR HOME? assessment. This tool is designed to help your family identify how it is doing with each of the YMCA’s five pillars of a healthy family home: eat healthy, play every day, get together, go outside and sleep well. Following each question of the assessment, we’ll offer some suggestions for where your family could begin setting goals to improve your family’s health and well-being.Top of Form
1.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often do the members of your family consume at least five servings of fruits and/or vegetables in a single day (5 servings might look like: glass of 100 percent orange juice, a handful of blueberries, peanut butter and 100 percent fruit preserves sandwich, carrots and applesauce with dinner)?
The delicious crunch of fruits and veggies can be part of every meal and snack your family enjoys throughout the day and is important for your whole family’s health. Everybody needs the vitamins, fiber and minerals that these colorful foods provide in order to grow and stay strong, energetic and free from illness. Stay healthy by reaching for five servings every day.
2.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often do the members of your family consume sugar-sweetened or artificially-sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet tea, diet drinks or juices with added sugar?
A simple way to improve your family’s overall health is to explore your approach to fluids by cutting out the drinks with added sugar and adding more water, 100% fruit juice and low-fat milk to your family’s diet. If your family is currently used to drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, begin working gradually to replace them with healthier options.
Play Every Day
3.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often do your children get 60 minutes or more of active play and physical activity in their day (not necessarily all at once)?
4.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often do the adults in your home get 30 minutes or more of active play and physical activity in their day (not necessarily all at once)?
Playful movement is one of the keys to a healthy family home. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do. Just think of all the many choices you have from walking to gardening to vacuuming the carpet, let alone the fun you can have with your kids swimming in a pool, going for a hike, shooting some hoops, or taking a favorite pet for a walk. To get 60 minutes of moderate activity throughout your day just add ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there. Several times each week, spend a little more energy while moving. Try to engage in vigorous activities at least three times each week for 20 consecutive minutes, but don’t worry if five or ten minutes leaves you feeling wiped out at first. Small steps will get you there, so don’t overdo it. When the play stops feeling good, take a break.
5.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often does your entire family spend at least 60 minutes of time together each day doing something other than watching television or riding in a car?
One of the greatest gifts you can give to your family is the time that you all spend together. In today’s world, too many families are go, go, go all of the time resulting in too little time spent together. Try to find an hour a day during which your entire family has an opportunity to connect and share.
6.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often do individual children in your family enjoy at least 30 minutes of special one-to-one time with an adult family member doing something other than watching television or riding in a car?
Special one-to-one time helps develop and strengthen the important adult-child relationships in a healthy family home. Children need adult time and attention like they need healthy food and playful activity. When it is missing, kids will find other ways to ask for adult time and attention often resulting in negative behavior and stress on the relationship. Most of the time it takes some planning, but the thoughtful gift of your time is one of the things that will help your child learn, grow and thrive.
7.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often does everyone in your family get to spend at least 30 minutes outside?
A growing body of research is pointing to the fact that time spent in contact with nature is good for everyone, but that it is particularly important to the healthy development of children. Nature engages all of the senses, helps children to develop curiosity and creativity, reduces stress and fosters a sense of wonder and a desire to explore and learn. Children who spend time in nature are also more likely to develop a lifelong sense of connection to and concern for the environment.
8.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often is your children’s outdoor time spent in unstructured or exploratory play (for example, running and climbing on a playground, pretend play in the backyard, digging in a sand box, playing a game of pick-up soccer with friends, building a snowman or fort, looking under rocks, exploring a forest or creek, etc.)?
More children than ever are involved in scheduled, structured activities. Children benefit greatly from unstructured play as well. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, free play helps children grow and develop toward important intellectual, emotional, and social milestones along their developmental journey toward healthy teen and adult years.
9.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often do your children ages 5 – 12 get 10 hours or more of restful, uninterrupted sleep?
Based on their ages, children need different amounts of sleep. Doctors recommend between 10 and 12 hours per day for kids between the ages of 5 and 12. When children do not get enough sleep it can cause moodiness and impact their ability to learn in school. Additionally, recent studies have found links between sleep and obesity in children. It may seem strange, but the more hours that kids sleep the less likely they are to become obese.
10.On average and to the best of your knowledge, how often do the adults in your family get 8 hours or more of restful, uninterrupted sleep?
Restful sleep also has important short- and long-term health benefits for adults, including a role in maintaining our healthy immune system, metabolism, mood, memory, learning, and other vital functions. Researchers are also beginning to point towards the benefits of sleep for the prevention of heart disease and other chronic conditions. Doctors recommend seven to eight hours per night for adults.Bottom of Form
For more Healthy Family Home resources, including a Starter Kit and a sign-up box for the monthly Healthy Family Home e-newsletter, go to http://www.ymca.net/healthy-family-home and/or follow Meeting Waters YMCA on Facebook.
The previous article appeared in the October 2011 edition of Parent Express magazine:
Susan Fortier serves as Senior Program Director of the Meeting Waters YMCA while Steve is the organization’s Executive Director. Steve is the founder and co-leader of the Healthy Communities Coalition of Windham County and co-leader of the Fit & Healthy Kids Coalition. Susan is a member of both coalitions and the leader of MWYMCA’s Healthy Family Home initiative.