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Building Your Family's Healthy Habits

Boost your family fitness with these tips to develop and stick with healthy habits.

Motivating Your Family to Adopt Healthy Habits

Once you understand how to motivate yourself, you can use that knowledge and these strategies to help your kids get on track, too.

Be a good example. Changing your own behavior is the first step to changing your child's behavior. Your spouse or kids may not suddenly jump at the chance to join you at the gym, but that doesn’t mean your example isn’t influencing them. Probably most parents have had the experience of seeing their child do or say something that they did not specifically teach, such as playing with a cell phone or blurting out a "bad word" in public. The same goes for healthy habits. They're watching, so set an example you want them to follow.

"Just by modeling that behavior you might help them come up with their own reasons to get healthier," Stone says. And your success may actually pack a powerful wallop. A 2004 study reported in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine showed that when parents lose weight, kids are much more likely to lose weight, too.

Make it easy. Create routines and an environment that makes healthy choices easier for everyone, says Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler. Get fresh fruit out of the fridge and put it on the table in a bowl, for example, or involve the kids with cooking or shopping.

Find the fun in fitness. Be on the lookout for physical activities kids enjoy, from walks to tennis to climbing trees. Fitness isn't only about team sports -- it's about encouraging activity and letting kids pursue those that they enjoy most.

Integrate small, positive changes into activities everyone enjoys. If the family's going to sit down for a movie, make it a routine that everyone goes for a walk first. If you're going out to the movies, see how far away you can park in the lot and walk to the theater. Pizza night coming up? Get everyone shooting hoops together beforehand. If your family is trying to lose weight, order your pizza meatless and ask for a light sprinkling of cheese. Or order without cheese and use reduced-fat or fat-free cheese from your fridge as a topping, then pop the pizza back in the oven to melt it.

Be willing to sacrifice. Your family will need to let go of some well-loved but unhealthy habits to make room for the new healthier ones. For example, you may miss your nightly ice cream, but after a while you will grow to love your perfect piece of fruit. You may find it hard to say good-bye to a favorite TV show, but you and your kids will never regret spending an hour making a healthy dinner or taking a walk around the neighborhood.

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