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Make working out something family does together

Healthy life educatiby example

Healthy life education by example

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For the past few years, Jennifer and Tim Hegseth of Northfield, Minn., wanted to correct the course on their family’s lifestyle, but they didn’t know how to switch gears.

Jennifer, 46, is an airline pilot who is on the road three days a week. When she’s gone, her 47-year-old husband, Tim, who works full time, shuttles their children, Sam, 11, and Ella, 7, to all their after-school activities including various sports.

In the past, Tim often grabbed fast-food meals or whipped up quick frozen dinners for himself and the kids. He has a sedentary job and rarely found time to exercise. Jennifer tried to go to the hotel gyms when she was away from home, but it wasn’t enough physical activity to keep her weight in check.

Time to change

By late December, the couple felt out of shape and wanted to make some changes. “I want my family to get moving,” Jennifer said. “I must pass a medical exam every year for my job and would like to improve my diet and exercise so that my health is not a concern for my career.”

So the Hegseths volunteered to participate in this year’s Family Fitness Challenge, an initiative to help families across the country get more active and lose weight. The ongoing project is being produced in partnership with USA Weekend Magazine and “The Doctors” TV show.

More than 400 families applied to take part in the challenge. Six families were chosen, and they were paired with a fitness expert from the American College of Sports Medicine and a registered dietitian from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The families have been working with their professionals since early January. The Hegseths are now:

† Wearing pedometers. “I absolutely love it,” Jennifer says. “Since I started wearing one in mid-January, I have gotten more than 10,000 steps almost every day.”

† Walking a couple miles at the local high school. “Sam and I go every Friday,” she says. “We talk about his week at school. It’s a bonding time.”

† Doing exercise DVDs. They like ones that don’t have a lot of dancing or complex moves, she says. “Our family seems to lack rhythm.”

† Making better use of the treadmill, elliptical, free weights and jump ropes in their basement. “We do a circuit so that everyone does a different activity for 10 minutes at a time,” she says.

The kids really like working out, Tim says. One night recently, they kept “bugging me about going downstairs to work out.”

“We took away some screen time to do this as a family. So now we have more face time while we’re exercising,” Jennifer says.

Fitness instructor Mark Neumann has been pushing them. “They have an elliptical trainer, a treadmill and a dog that needs walking. I expect great results from them.”

The family also has been working with Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

He says they are making changes “the right way — slow and steady and as a family. That’s great for their health, and it’s essential for staying motivated.”

Yo-yo no more

When it comes to their eating habits, the Hegseths now:

† Limit dining out. They used to eat out four or five times a week but have reduced that to one meal a week. When they do go out, they split two meals instead of ordering four.

† Plan ahead more so they can whip up healthy dinners.

† Eat smaller portions. Sometimes instead of using dinner plates, they use a salad plates.

Jennifer has lost 10 pounds in five weeks; Tim has lost 20. “This is a permanent change in our family’s way of life,” Jennifer says.

Gannett News Service

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