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Each Father’s Day, my wife and daughters put me first. They cook my favorite meals. They plan afternoon excursions. They shower me with gifts.
Millions of dads are familiar with this scenario. What so many of us forget to do is follow our family’s lead. We don’t put ourselves first, and fail to give ourselves one of the most precious gifts we can offer: a healthy lifestyle.
Being a father means thinking about the legacy we want to leave for our children — a legacy of wealth, knowledge, skills, values, principles, and more. But all too often we miss critical opportunities to build for them legacies of health and fitness. Carving out time for a run might not seem as vital to our family’s future as choosing the right investments or helping the kids with their homework, but that’s shortsighted. It’s time we started treating our health like any other asset.
Here are three reminders why prioritizing your health and fitness is not only a great way to celebrate Father’s Day, but also to change the trajectory of your entire family.
Fathers Pack on the Pounds
According to a large-scale study that tracked over 10,000 men over a twenty-year period, men who became fathers gained significantly more weight and had higher BMIs than men who didn’t during the same period.
As busy dads, we prioritize the demands of work and family over our own health and fitness. But providing for your family and prioritizing yourself at the same time doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. In fact, if you want to be the best dad, husband, coach, community member, or guest at your daughter’s next tea party that you can be, making health and fitness an integral part of your life is essential.
The early years of fatherhood move swiftly. If you want to enjoy them, you’ll have to be able to keep up.
Like Father, Like Daughter
Being out of shape doesn’t just potentially hurt you; it could affect your children as well.
New research suggests that a father’s weight can influence a child’s health outcomes, which may explain why children of obese men are more likely to grow into obese children and adults themselves.
All the small, seemingly innocuous choices we make as parents help determine the kind of life our children will have. Furthermore, the choices we make about our health and fitness can influence their lives as much as what careers we pursue or the homes we buy. Many dads might change how they feel about fitness if they remind themselves what’s at stake, and that by prioritizing their health, they’re not being selfish; they’re putting their family first.
Follow the Leader
But don’t worry — setting a positive example around health and fitness is a lot simpler than it sounds.
While you don’t have to be perfect, you need to make a concerted effort to model healthy habits in front of your children, like working out at home, drinking more water, and cooking meals as a family. Ideally, you should involve them in the process. After all, educating your children about nutrition is great, but they aren’t going to magically crave salads if they’ve never seen you eating one. The same goes for exercising.
Here’s the tricky part. I know your gym time is sacred, and you probably couldn’t wait for it to reopen. But as much as you love going to the Box to get your sweat on, unless your children are there with you, you’re missing an opportunity to model for them the importance of exercise and how much fun fitness can be!
We often forget how closely our children watch us. You don’t need to stop and teach your five-year old the proper mechanics of an air squat, but children learn through osmosis. One day, while you’re relaxing on the couch, suddenly your kid will crawl into a push-up position and say, “Look, I’m exercising like Daddy!”
For dads, these are the moments we live for. That, and being healthy enough to get down there with her and show her how it’s really done!Kevin Torres is the founder and head coach of Forging Elite Fathers, an online health and fitness program for busy dads and the host of the Dad Bod WOD Podcast.