February is said to be the cruelest month, but many Canadians beg to differ. With ice crusting over their windshields and the sun still rising after breakfast, it’s easy to say: “Let’s get February over with already!”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Canadians can’t beat February, so they might as well join it, and the best way to do that is to get outside for some active winter fun with loved ones on Family Day. After all, five provinces now celebrate Family Day in February.

Canadian Olympic gold medalist and Men’s Health Champion Cassie Campbell-Pascall has certainly embraced the month. Keeping up with her active daughter has led Cassie to places she’s never been — like the top of a ski hill.

“I never skied growing up, so I had to learn to ski because of her. She has really pushed my husband and I out of our comfort zone with skiing. It’s embarrassing how bad I am at it, but it doesn’t matter because she’s getting me going!”

 

This is a great example of family members motivating each other to live healthier. Research suggests that parents are the primary influence on young children’s eating and activity behaviours. Yet national data reveals that over 70% of Canadian children do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, and 80% of 3- to 4-year-olds exceed the recommendations for time watching or playing on screens. Clearly, many Canadian families face challenges when it comes to maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.

Campbell is no exception. With active jobs — Cassie as a motivational speaker and broadcaster, her husband, Brad, as an assistant general manager of the NHL’s Calgary Flames — the gym is rarely an option. Instead, they prefer to make active living part of their daily routine.

“A quick half-hour workout can really relieve stress after work. Come home and go for a bike ride, come home and go to the park,” suggests Campbell. “Sometimes we think, ‘I’ve got to work out hard for an hour,’ but I think a quick five minutes of stretching can be just as beneficial.”

Parents like Campbell who take a lifestyle approach to fitness set valuable examples for their children, and this appears to be especially true for fathers. A study conducted at the University of Newcastle in Australia followed 8- and 9-year-olds over four years and found that children who had a father with obesity and a mother with a healthy weight were 10 times more likely to develop obesity compared to children who had two parents without obesity. Another study, conducted at the Quebec Centre for Longitudinal Studies, found that the odds of having obesity at age 7 doubled among children whose fathers were obese, while there was no association between the mothers’ weight and the weight of their sons.

What can our fathers and families do to solve this national eating and activity dilemma?
The first step is awareness: Fathers need to be made aware of their impact on their children’s health. Next comes action: Motivate dads to take care of their own health to influence that of their children. A fallback for men is often to delegate their own health to their spouses, and this needs to change. Third, consistency: Making it easier for fathers and their families to maintain a healthier lifestyle is what drives us at CMHF. We deliver easy to use resources that cover everything from recipes and food-swap ideas to suggestions for active, enjoyable family time.

The result, we hope, will benefit us all: A legacy of healthier families, and a healthier Canada.

 

Be sure to check out these 4 Ways to Build Traditions for Family Day over at DontChangeMuch.ca.