7 Habits of Healthy Moms

Everyone gives Mom a gift for Mother’s Day, but how many moms think to give themselves the gift of great health—year-round? It’s easy for busy, juggling moms to put themselves last on their to-do list, but simple changes in daily habits can help you look and feel great.

A healthy, happy lifestyle sets a positive example for kids, combats stress, and could even help moms live longer! Here are seven of the healthiest ways you and your family can celebrate:

1. Dine as a family

Not only are family dinners an ideal time to catch up with each other, but they also help reduce the risk for childhood obesity, eating disorders and bad nutrition. A recent review of 17 studies published in the Pediatrics reported that teens who ate at least times a week with their parents experienced 35 percent fewer eating disorders than kids who didn’t eat with the family. Those teens also had a 12 percent lower risk of being overweight and had a 24 percent higher tendency to eat healthy overall. Breakfast and lunch count, so if it’s difficult to round up all the kids and spouse at suppertime, eat together earlier in the day.

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2. Limit TV time

Cutting down on screen time can actually save or lengthen your life. A 2011 study published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who spend four or more hours a day watching TV, sitting at a computer or playing video games doubled their risk of a serious or fatal cardiac event, compared to people who devoted two hours or less to leisure-time screen-based entertainment.

And moms aren’t the only ones who benefit from unplugging the tube. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that media exposure contributes to obesity in kids and adolescents—not just because TV-watching is a sedentary activity, but also because kids are influenced by ads for fast food and junk food. Advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics: kids shouldn’t watch TV for more than two hours of quality programming per day.

3. Cheer up!

A bright outlook on life not only makes your heart happy, it helps keep it healthier: a new Harvard study shows that optimistic people have just half the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to less positive people—and that’s regardless of their age, weight, or whether they smoke! People with an upbeat outlook also practice other healthy behaviors, such as getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthy meals. 

And if you start to feel gloomy, try drawing a picture of something that makes you happy—perhaps a tranquil island scene, or simply two friends enjoying coffee. A 2008 study found that creating joyful art reduces stress and puts us in a better mood.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression

4. Hug your hubby

Love not only stirs the soul: It can also boost your health, In a study of 59 women, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers report that those who reported the most hugs with their partner had the highest levels of oxytocin, a hormone sometimes known as the “cuddle chemical.” It’s thought to play a role in social bonding and also has a potent effect on the cardiovascular systems. In the study, the frequent huggers had lower resting blood pressure. Happy couples produce less cortisol, the “stress" hormone.

5. Laugh it up!

Laughter appears to be another practice that helps the cardiovascular system. A study by the University of Maryland Medical Center found that laughing causes the endothelium—the inner lining of blood vessels—to expand, allowing for increased blood flow. If you want to celebrate Mother’s Day getting healthy with gal-pals, try a class in "laughter yoga," a new fitness trend that cuts stress by combining joyful laughing with deep yogic breathing.

6. Take a walk.

We’ve heard it many times: walking is one of the easiest, healthiest exercises. For those who can’t find time for the recommended 30 minutes a day, there’s good news: a new study, involving more than 400,000 people, found that just 15 minutes of walking each day lengthened the participants lives by up to three years.

People who walked at least 92 minutes per week were 14 percent less likely to die during the eight-year study, and each additional 15 minutes of exercise per week trimmed mortality risk by another 4 percent. Family walks, jogging or bike rides are a great way to bond and stay in shape.

7. Reach for healthy snacks.

Snacking doesn’t have to get in the way of healthy living. Kids often choose unhealthy snacks because they’ve skipped breakfast and they aren’t getting strong enough messages about healthy eating, researchers at the University of Cincinnati found recently. Enjoying and sharing your own healthy snacks is a great way to introduce the family to snacking that won’t pack on the pounds. 

Try some air-popped popcorn, or whole-grain crackers and fruit with peanut butter. And shun sugary drinks: researchers from the University of California at San Francisco linked sugar-sweetened drinks to 14,000 new cases of heart disease and 75,000 new cases of diabetes over the past 10 years. Better to teach the kids to hydrate with water.

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