Creating a Physical Health Legacy: A Tradition to Pass On To the Next Generation of Girls

Published on March 14th, 2014

What will your legacy be? What do you want to be remembered for? When a sports figure retires, we celebrate their heroics on the field of play — the game-winning shot…the walk-off home run…the hole-in-one. Athletes are often reminisced upon with unwavering adoration. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could be remembered for something great…something that the next generation of girls wants to emulate?

In a world where meals come deep fried, sugary & super-sized, there’s a need for individuals to take a stand and live a healthier lifestyle. Role models don’t only come in the form of well-known athletes; they exist within each and every one of us. With everything today’s girls are forced to deal with — from bullying to body image issues to drug use — all girls could benefit from a role model who can guide them on the path to being physically healthy.

According to New York University’s Child Study Center, if one parent is obese, there is a 50% chance that a child will also be obese. When both parents are obese, a child has an 80% chance of being obese. And research from the Women’s Sports Foundation shows that failure to address the development of regular exercise behaviors and good nutrition at an early age has major health and economic consequences.

These numbers and facts are staggering, but there are solutions that can help get us on the right track for healthier living, for both for us as women now and for our girls later.

We often get stuck in a mindset of “l’ll start eating right when…” or “l’ll start exercising when…” We can’t get past our own thoughts when it comes to trying something new, even if that something new will benefit us. We tell ourselves that we need to eat better, to exercise, but we get in our own way…our minds become the hurdle that we can’t leap over. There’s no better time than today to change our thinking! Do it now. Life happens and there will always be obstacles and distractions, but if you put the effort in, you’ll make this healthier lifestyle a routine; something as natural as brushing your teeth or combing your hair.

How about embarking on a new family tradition? Family traditions come in many forms like Sunday dinners, Saturdays spent at the park and holiday vacations. They are an integral part of your family’s identity. Make today the day you begin a new family tradition — a tradition of living an active and healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle will become second nature if you make the start, set goals and transform the way you think about the health of your body and mind. And in turn, your healthy habits will affect the girls in your life in a positive way. Simply put: establishing a physical health legacy is a win-win for everyone.

Here are a few steps to making health your long-lasting legacy:

1. Demonstrate healthy eating habits. Girls are so impressionable and try to live as we do, so make sure you set a good example with your choices.

2. Go for walks with your family. It will not only strengthen your muscles, it will also help clear your mind. As an added bonus, it’s a time specifically set aside to spend time with your girls, when you can connect away from the pressures and stressors of home.

3. Empty your refrigerator and cabinets of unhealthy foods to deter everyone in your family from making poor eating choices. Instead, fill your kitchen with fruits, vegetables and grains.

4. Celebrate your success as a family. Not only can it build a stronger family bond, it can boost the self-esteem of everyone involved. When you’ve reached certain milestones, head out for a fun family outing. Incentivize the process so everyone feels invested and rewarded.

5. Create a progress chart to keep a record of what you’re doing to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Writing down your steps makes it easier to see what you’re doing right or what you need to do to improve.

6. Set achievable goals for healthier lifestyle choices. Make it a gradual process instead of diving right in. This careful approach may help your success in the long run.

8. Don’t speak about it, be about it! Put your ideas into motion. The first step is usually the hardest, but once you get started, it can become routine.

9. Make lasting memories of your new lifestyle. Snap photos of your family on a walk through the neighborhood. Film videos of your family running a race. Share these in celebration of your healthy choices.

You’ve got what it takes to make a difference in the physical and mental health of the people you love. Ready…set…go for it. If you accept the challenge, your legacy begins now!

The Foundation’s award-winning GoGirlGo! program aims to establish healthy habits and a love for physical activity in girls as young as five. Learn more about the program here.

Writer January Green is a member of the WSF Digital Contributor Team.