I’m not even close to being a fitness expert, but I am thinking that we could spend a little more time talking about the issue of fathers and physical well-being.
Of course, good health may not be the most important factor in being an effective father—even in a hospital bed, you can be a good father to your kids. But it will make a big difference in your ability to father your children with energy, patience and affection.
Think about it: if you’re physically drained, you’re less likely to join your kids in activities they want to do. And you’re more likely to lose your composure, badger and exasperate your children, or even lose it and start yelling at them.
This may get into your personal stuff, but since I probably don’t know you, let me ask: How’s your blood pressure? Could you stand to drop fifteen or twenty pounds? Are you dragging by the time you get home from work? Are you often stressed out from your job? Are you getting enough sleep at night? How about your cholesterol? Your blood sugar?
If you can stand to, ask your wife and kids what they think about your physique, your work schedule, your eating and exercise habits, and any ideas they have for how you can improve. Have them suggest changes your entire family could make that would contribute to a more healthy lifestyle.
They’ll hold you accountable, which might be tough at first. But the great thing is that you can set goals, encourage each other, and work together to attain them. Find a challenging sport that you enjoy, and with your doctor’s approval, take it up with your son or daughter—like tennis, running, cycling, or basketball. Hours on a treadmill will help you reach your goal, but if your kids are involved, that’s even better.
Dads, I know you’ve probably heard some of the many good reasons to take fitness seriously—including better job opportunities, more self-esteem and confidence, and even a better sex life. For me, one of the best reasons is to be able to keep up with and enjoy my children. They’re worth whatever changes or sacrifices it might take.
Another important factor that may be more important when it comes to being healthy and fit is modeling. There’s convincing research showing that fathers’ habits are important factors in whether or not their kids adopt a healthy lifestyle. A 1999 study concluded that “the most serious threat to the health of American children is the behavior of their own parents.”
An earlier study found that, among fathers with children in first through fourth grades, 48 percent don’t participate in any moderate or vigorous physical exercise. And less than 30 percent do so three times a week.
Another study found that children ages 4 to 7 with at least one active parent are three times more likely to be active than children of inactive parents. When both parents are active, children are six times more likely to be active.
Still another study showed that fathers, more than mothers, influence their daughters’ activity levels through modeling. Active, fit fathers tend to have daughters who enjoy exercise and activity, and prefer to be outside playing instead of watching TV.
Our children look to us for their values, habits and lifestyle decisions, and what they learn is caught more than taught. So get fit, dad! Start eating better food—and less of it. Make time for 30 minutes of exercise three or four times a week. Invite your kids to join you. But even if they don’t, they will notice and remember your commitment and self-discipline.