Ginny Marshall is a mother of three who works part-time in the deli at a local grocery store. She had gestational diabetes during her second and third pregnancies and subsequently developed Type 2 diabetes about two years ago. Her husband, Bob, has put on about 10 pounds since starting a new job about a year ago. And their daughters, ages 10, 11, and 13, despite participating in seasonal city league sports, are less active than they probably should be. Indeed, it seems that more often than not, the family finds itself exhausted and lying around watching television for family time.
Feeling frustrated, Ginny spoke to her diabetes educator about wanting to add more physical activity to her routine but feeling that she lacked time to do so. Her diabetes educator showed her the Shape Up America! publication “20 Tips for Getting Your Family on Track,” and together they explored ways to add some physical activity during planned family time. Ginny took the information home and asked her husband and daughters to each pick one of the activity options on the list so they could work toward getting more physically active as a family. Family members agreed they would use the family activity calculator available at www.shapeup.org/fac/fac1.html to help them understand how many calories are burned by various types of activity. They then chose the following to incorporate into their family time:
• Ginny chose family walks after mealtimes. They started by setting a reasonable goal of taking a walk three times a week after dinner. They also made plans to take weekend walks at different places in their town, such as the arboretum or the horse park. When the weather outside was less than cooperative, they decided they would walk together at their church gym.
• Bob liked the idea of designing a Frisbee golf course and playing Frisbee golf. To play, you decide on targets to use as “golf holes” and count the number of Frisbee tosses it takes each player to get from the starting point to the target. The family enjoyed the friendly competition, and one of the girls liked it so much she signed up for golf lessons.
• The oldest daughter chose using hula hoops to get more active. She pointed out that they could do this inside or outside, and they could take turns choosing music to hula hoop by. The family enjoyed much laughter as each member tried to keep his hoop going the longest.
• The middle sister chose to “adopt the neighborhood” to keep it clean. The family started with their own street and had several neighbors ask about joining them when they saw how much better things looked.
• The youngest daughter picked limiting screen time (television, video games, and computer) to less than two hours per day. To maintain accountability, she created a chart for family members to record their recreational screen time on a daily basis.
Adding physical activity to family-centered activities sets a good example for the children in your family, and it benefits everyone’s health, including any family members with diabetes. Experts agree that physical activity can prevent, or at least postpone, Type 2 diabetes from occurring. So by making physical activity a family priority, you may be giving family members who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes one of the best gifts they could possibly receive.
Shape Up America! is a not-for-profit organization committed to raising awareness of obesity as a health issue and to providing responsible information on healthy weight management. The flier “20 Tips for Getting Your Family on Track” and other tip sheets can be found at www.shapeup.org/children/tips_index.html.