4 Ways to Keep Your Family Active, Healthy, and Happy While Social Distancing
As the Houston area continues to stay at home in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, families are having to improvise when it comes to health and wellness: closed gyms and canceled school athletics mean that good workouts are harder to come by; you probably already made it through the regular meal rotation a couple of times; and with everyone working and learning from home, the stress and cabin fever levels are getting real.
While the secrets to staying healthy is old news—eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep—you’ll have to get a little creative to keep it up while following the recommended social distancing guidelines. Thankfully, there are many ways your family can stay healthy (and sane) through it all and maintain the proper quarantine safeguards.
Revive the Ancient Tradition of the Family Meal
Even if you’re a younger parent, you’ve probably caught yourself telling your kids, “Back in my day, the whole family sat around the table for dinner!” Well, now that everyone’s extracurricular activities are canceled until the summer, why not bring that old tradition back?
A recent study on the impact of family meals found a positive relationship between the number of family meals per week, healthier eating habits, and a better functioning family. On the whole, families who eat together at least three times a week are more cohesive, better at communicating, and more connected. Regular family meals are also linked to higher school grades and reduced rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and teens.
Our modern on-the-go lifestyle often makes it difficult to find the time to sit down for a family meal. Now that everyone’s stuck at home, it’s the perfect opportunity to reset your schedules to include this tradition from now on. And once everything is back to normal, the family meal will feel like part of the routine.
Take the Time to Cook Nutritious Meals
Boredom and stress can often lead to poorer, more erratic eating habits. This is made worse when you go to the grocery store and see everyone panic-buying frozen and non-perishable foods. Human beings are social creatures—we see everyone else doing something, and we think we should do it, too. But do your best to resist these urges. For one thing, panic-buying increases the likelihood that your community’s supplies will be wiped out (see: toilet paper). Most importantly, there are plenty of healthy meals you can make with what’s readily available in your grocery store’s produce aisle.
Sturdy vegetables and starches like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes will keep in the refrigerator for a long time. You can prepare fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables and put them in your freezer to have for months on-end. If you do buy canned, dried or frozen goods, choose those low in saturated fat, salt, and added sugars. Look for foods with less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving, less than 200 milligrams of salt per serving, and less than 1.5 grams of saturated fat per serving.
If you’re bored with what you’re cooking, push yourself to explore other meal options. There are plenty of delicious and healthy family recipes you can find online to change it up for even the pickiest eaters in your family. Blogs like Delish have a huge back-catalog of easy recipes and are constantly being updated. Several of them even have downloadable shopping lists to help you navigate your local grocery aisles.
Get Up and Move at Hourly Intervals
It’s hard enough to get out of your chair when you’re bogged down by work at the office. Now that your office is at the kitchen table, it can be even harder to remember that your body needs movement to stay nourished. Set a timer on your phone to take a small break once every hour. Stand up and perform some simple stretches. If the weather permits, grab your face mask and take a quick walk around the block (keeping in mind to stay six feet away from the other people who are walking, too). Get away from your screens and take in your surroundings. Not only will moving relieve some pent-up stress, this simple action will help ensure flexibility and reduce the risk of health issues that are related to sitting, such as increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Turn Working Out Into a Fun Family Game
Getting your children to stay active can be difficult in the best of times. Now that we’re all mandated to stay indoors as much as possible, how do you make sure they aren’t spending even more time in front of a video game console? You turn exercise into a family sport.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean just push-ups and sit-ups (though that would be perfectly fine). Try throwing a living room dance party, or showing your kids your legendary jump rope tricks. Take the whole family for a bike ride, or a long walk around the neighborhood.
Remember all the fun games you used to play as a kid? These games are more fun than ever with the whole family involved, and even better when you add some exercise challenges. For example, set some boundaries for hide and seek and have everyone do jumping jacks when they reach base or get caught. Set up pillow forts and throw a Nerf War. In lieu of the Olympics being canceled, hold the 2020 Family Olympics with a number of award-winning competitions like foot racing, long jumping, sibling-lifting, and more.
Most kids are naturally inclined to be active, so it’s important as a parent to make sure they have the freedom to move whenever they want. And don’t forget: children model their parents’ behavior. Make sure you’re right there working out with them. It will make it seem like less of a chore if Mom and Dad are doing push-ups, too.
To read more about how your family can stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, visit our COVID-19 resource page.