How to Have a Healthier New School Year

Time for a new school year
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The start of a new school year is a perfect time to make resolutions. It's as much of a fresh start as January 1, especially for families. Take advantage of the spirit of new beginnings and resolve to make this school year the healthiest one yet for your family. Since you'll probably need to set (or reset) routines for the school year, why not improve them with some healthy family goals?

As you make those resolutions, strive for specifics. Instead of just saying "we'll eat healthier," think about how you'll do it. And look for family buy-in. Kids are usually more motivated to make changes when they are part of a family project

Zero in on just a few resolutions. You'll have a better chance at succeeding. Think about what area you'd like to focus on, and create resolutions based around that. Tailor them to your family's specific needs and circumstances. To get you started, consider these options, and then adapt as needed.

We Resolve to Get Enough Sleep

Did you know that preschoolers who go to bed by 8 p.m. are much less likely to be obese when they're teens (compared to kids with later bedtimes)? That little-kid sleep is still affecting them ten years later. This is just one of many examples of the connection between sleep and good health, for kids and adults of all ages. Make this the year that you create a bedtime routine that works, and you stick with it. 

We Resolve to Take More Steps

Tracking your steps with a pedometer, app, or fitness wearable can help you avoid sedentary behavior. Consider having all family members track their steps for a week or so, to see what your baseline is. If kids are already getting 10,000 or 12,000 steps a day, they're on track. If adults are only fitting in 5,000 or fewer steps, they need a plan to pick up the pace and catch up to the kids. The idea is to customize goals for each person but work together to achieve those goals.

We Resolve to Make ____ a Priority

For each family member, pick one activity to prioritize. For one child, it might be a musical instrument. For another, it might be a sport. It doesn't mean kids can't do more than one thing (in fact, variety is healthy, especially in sports). But when you run into the inevitable conflicts, you'll have a go-to decision: For this year, soccer is the priority, so we'll skip that free-throw contest.

We Resolve to Plan Our Meals

This can be a challenge, especially for busy families! What might help is to pick one daily meal to focus on, whether it's breakfast, school lunches, or dinner. For breakfasts and lunches, success is all in the grocery shopping. For the evening meal, commit to planning just once or twice a week at first. Then add days later. And spread this responsibility around! Kids 10 and up can take charge of one meal a week.

We Resolve to Lighten the Backpack Load

Your child's (full) backpack should equal no more than 20% of their body weight. So as you're shopping for backpacks and school supplies, keep weight in mind. You also might need to discuss this with your child. Some kids stuff everything in their pack and haul it back and forth to school each day just to avoid stopping at their locker. Bad idea.

We Resolve to Be Active

Maybe this means trying something new, like a dance class, or signing up for a new sport. Maybe it's adding a specific challenge to something you're already doing, like registering for a 5K if you're a runner. Maybe your child would like to try out for an elite team or set a new personal record. Having goals can motivate everyone to make room for physical activity in their busy schedules.

We Resolve to Have Fun

Plan for fun, active family time so it doesn't get lost in the school-work-activities-housework shuffle! 

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