As partners of the Together Counts program supporting healthy active lifestyles, we at Special Olympics know that athletes compete at their best when they are fit and healthy. Therefore, we encourage our athletes to focus on health and fitness on and off the playing field.
The simple suggestions below help families of athletes stay healthy together and provide a strong foundation for athletic performance. And, these tips can help your family live a healthy lifestyle, too!
Role Model a Healthy Lifestyle
Parents guide their family’s choices by “practicing what they preach.” Show your children that you like to eat healthy choices at meals and snacks. Drink water and other beverages throughout the day to stay hydrated. Make physical activity a priority and limit your own screen time. In families with active parents, boys were over seven times more likely to be active and girls were four-and-a-half times more likely to be active than children of the same gender with inactive parents.1
Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice
- Keep cut fruits, vegetables, and other healthy choices readily available, and serve milk or water with meals and snacks. When parents serve raw fruits and vegetables for snacks, children are five times more likely to meet fruit and vegetable guidelines.2
- Teach that foods like chips, sodas, and sweets are treats and can be enjoyed occasionally.
- Make sure you’re prepared with nutritious snacks whether you’re driving the carpool, going on a road trip or heading to soccer practice. Some suggestions include sliced apples, orange sections, carrot sticks, sliced green and red peppers, whole grain crackers, string cheese, light popcorn, raisins and water with lemon slices.
- Provide options for physical activity in and around the home. You don’t need a lot of space or equipment. Here are some exercises you can do as a family.
- Do simple things to encourage physical activity when you’re with your family, like take the stairs rather than the elevator or park the car farther away when running errands.
Get the Whole Family Involved
- Set nutrition or fitness goals together and work to reach the goals as a family. Our Fit 5 Guide has simple goals for healthy living and even has a tracking tool to monitor progress.
- Encourage your whole family to get involved in planning and preparing meals. Plan a week’s dinners together and build on foods that your family already loves.
- Bring the family to help with grocery shopping. This gives them the opportunity to select the healthy foods they want to eat.
- Help your children learn to prepare foods so they can make healthy snacks for themselves.
- Try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Studies show that eating together as a family decreases a child’s risk for obesity.3
- Find ways to be active together. Have everyone chip in on chores. Turn up some music and show off your dance moves. On a rainy day, you can follow along with our
Encouragement is Key
- Get involved in your child’s sports and physical activity. While any type of encouragement is beneficial, studies show that when parents actively get involved in their children’s sports, their children spend less time being sedentary.4
- Encourage your children to try all types of physical activities. Just because your child doesn’t like soccer, doesn’t mean she won’t like tennis, or yoga, or walking.
- Encourage your children to eat slowly. This gives our brain time to register fullness. Before offering a second helping, ask your family members to pause a while to see if they are truly still hungry.
Written by: Mary Pittaway and Monica Forquer.
Mary Pittaway is a Global Clinical Advisor with the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Health Promotion Programs. Mary, a Registered Dietitian and public health nutritionist strives to enhance a spirit of tolerance and acceptance and acceptance of others. For additional information go to Special Olympics Unified Sports Program,
Monica Forquer, MS, is a certified personal trainer and is the Manager of Fitness for Special Olympics Inc.
If you think your family could also benefit from getting involved with Special Olympics as athletes, unified partners, coaches, and volunteers, contact the Special Olympics program where you live. Also, you can keep up with all the Special Olympics news online as outlined below: