Act now to help your kids reach their maximum life expectancy
Here are our top five tips to ensure you set your kids up for a long and healthy life. As parents we want to make sure we are giving our kids the best start and educate them so they can make the right decisions as they enter adulthood.
1) Avoid obesity. Teach your kids to avoid high fat & high added sugar foods.
One thing that will shorten life expectancy is obesity. In a study reported in 2010 by the National Obesity Observatory the average life expectancy was reduced by two to four years in people at the lower end of the obesity scale (class I). The average life expectancy was reduced by eight to ten years in those at the high end of the scale (class III morbid obesity).
- Educate your kids to read the nutritional information on the food labels and to take responsibility for what they eat.
- Tell them the stuff they should avoid. As a rule of thumb we avoid anything with more than 25% fat or more than 20% added sugar. We also aim to get 30% of our calories from fruit and veg.
- Don’t promote over-eating. Teach your kids to eat what they need, not what they can.
- Set a good example and look at every food label you come across. It will rub off on your kids. I was amazed when my 8 year old looked at a bottle of Fanta Orange and said “I’ll have water to drink, this [soda] has too much sugar in it”
2) Make sure your kids get enough sleep
What you may not realise is regular sleep deprivation (even an hour or so each day) can have a long term effect on mental and physical health. Getting the right amount of rest helps the body and mind develop and repair.
Harvard Medical School experts revealed that people who get less than 5 hours of sleep are 15 percent more likely to die at any age, from anything. In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers discovered that less than five hours of sleep also doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease – which is the number one cause of death in America according to the CDC.
In the study, people who sleep less than six hours per day were about 30 percent more likely to gain weight and become obese than those who slept six to nine hours.
To ensure your kids get adequate sleep and foster good sleep practices, try the following
- Make sure they get to bed at a reasonable time (the obvious one)
- Keep kids off phones, tablets, TV’s and laptops for at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Lower the lighting levels in the house prior to bedtime (install dimmer switches).
- Keep the bedrooms dark (we use black-out blinds).
- Bedrooms should also be cool. Try to have them a couple of degrees colder than your living room.
- One great way to make sure your kids are focused on sleep is have no electronics in the bedroom. You don’t want them watching TV, surfing or on social media when they should be sleeping.
Everyone is different when it comes to the amount of sleep required. What we aim for is a good night’s rest that leaves us feeling fresh in the morning and able to get up smiling before 8am. For me, that’s around 9 hours. Certainly no less than 8 hours. For my kids, they are looking at 10 or 11 hours per night.
3) Build regular exercise into your kids schedule
Non of us would disagree that regular exercise is a good thing for long term health. There are many examples of studies to back this up. One, a report by the Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC University Medical Center concluded that avoiding a sedentary lifestyle during adulthood not only prevents cardiovascular disease but also substantially expands the total life expectancy and the cardiovascular disease-free life expectancy for men and women. Regular exercise can also help maintain a healthy body weight.
We use a few simple methods to keep our kids active and foster a long term active lifestyle.
- We let them try everything to see what they like. The list seems to be endless including cycling, running, athletics, hill walking, basketball, swimming, paddle-boarding, canoeing, football, tennis, softball, cricket, gymnastics, biathlon, body boarding, orienteering, gym and climbing.
- Get them involved in a regular weekly club. My son plays football, my daughter, swimming and netball.
- We lead by example. If kids see us active, they will want to follow suit.
- We walk or cycle instead of taking the car for shorter journeys.
- We promote watching different sports on TV and see what fires their imagination, capitalising on these by trying them with your kids.
4) Eat more fresh fruit, vegetables, stay hydrated and consume low fat meats
Dan Buettner, an explorer and fellow for National Geographic, spent ten years researching the places with the longest living people, known as the Blue Zones. If we look at these blue zones around the world we can see (amongst other social aspects) they all eat a good deal of fresh fruit and vegetables and low fat meats. Diet (and exercise) is a key aspect to longevity.
It is tough getting some kids to eat fruit and vegetables. Keep trying though, the long term benefits are well worth it. If you are struggling check out the our posts on smoothies and juicing for tips.
5) Avoid chemicals, keep it natural.
We don’t know what the long term effects of chemicals are on life expectancy. Cancer rates are rising and we are not really sure why. The best way to ensure longevity is to keep everything as natural as possible. We evolved successfully for thousands of years without added chemicals, plastics and additives. Let’s continue the trend.
I don’t know how the overuse of pesticides will play out. I don’t know what the long term effects of microwaving food in plastic containers is. Because it’s a gamble we air on the safe side following some simple rules.
- Eat organic food when possible
- Avoid additives and chemicals in foods – eat less processed food
- Avoid storing and cooking foods in plastic containers where possible
- Wash the pesticides off our non-organic fruit and vegetables in fresh water
- Avoid applying too many chemical loaded creams, lotions, hair dyes and make-up to our kids
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