Why is modelling healthy living so important?

This is a re-post of an article I wrote back in 2016. The message is still as important today as it was then.

As a personal trainer and fitness education tutor, I spend a lot of time teaching the importance of adopting healthy behaviours such as healthy eating, exercising daily, stress management and sleeping. I’m also conscious that I need to practice what I preach; otherwise, my clients and students won’t take me seriously. Therefore, I should be modelling healthy living as best I can, not just talking about it. However, recently, it occurred to me that modelling healthy living is not just crucial for my reputation. It is probably the most effective way to impact the health of my clients, friends and family.

A great poem

The other week I stumbled upon this great little poem. I wanted to share it with as many people as possible, particularly parents, grandparents, teachers, childminders, and anyone else who looks after children.

The Little Chap Who Follows Me

A careful man I want to be;

A little fellow follows me.

I do not dare to go astray

For fear, he’ll go the self same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,

Whatever he sees me do, he tries.

Like me he says he’s going to be;

The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I’m so very fine,

Believes in every word of mine.

The base in me he must not see;

The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go

Through summer’s sun and winter’s snow,

I’m building for the years to be;

The little chap who follows me.

But after all, it’s easier,

that brighter road to climb,

With little hands behind me

to push me all the time.

And I reckon I’m a better man

then what I used to be

Because I have this lad at home

who thinks the world of me.

Modelling healthy living

This poem impacted me because I have been thinking a lot lately about how important it is for my son to have a good role model in his life. He is nearly four and is already picking up so many of my mannerisms and will undoubtedly continue to do so for some time. So to give him the best chances in life, I want to make sure the lessons he is learning from his daddy are helpful ones.

Practice what you preach

I always imagined myself one day sitting my son down and verbally teaching him everything I thought he needed to know to live a happy and healthy life. However, the poem made something evident to me. It doesn’t matter what I say or try to teach my son. He won’t learn any of it unless I model it to him. If I tell him exercise is essential but don’t exercise myself, will he take that lesson seriously? If I teach him the importance of having a work-life balance but spending all my time on my phone and laptop when I’m in his company, will he take that lesson seriously? If I teach him the importance of having fun and enjoying life, but he never sees his daddy having any fun, will he take that lesson seriously? I think the answer to all those questions is NO, of course not.

Three simple ways to model healthy living

Here are three simple ways that we can be modelling healthy living for our children:

Move every day

Walk, run, swim, cycle, dance, climb….. whatever, just move every day!

Have fun

Do something every fun day. Running and lifting weights is healthy but not what I call fun! Exercise generally has a purpose, such as improved health or physical appearance. I’m talking about something we do for pure enjoyment and has no outcome or goal, except you thoroughly enjoy doing it. Watching a comedy, movies, singing, dancing, playing sports, drawing, train spotting, whatever floats your boat ….!!!

Eat foods from nature (most of the time)

For me, most of the time would be 80-90% of the week, leaving 10-20% of the week to have treats whenever I feel I need them. Yes, I know we should never eat these foods, but the reality is they exist, we know they exist, we quite like them, and it’s tough to spend the rest of your life pretending they don’t exist!

Our children need to learn how to be healthy and happy. What better way to teach our children how to be healthy and happy is there than living healthy and happy lives ourselves?

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