FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Imagine your children enjoying the flavor of healthy foods -- without complaining -- during a sunny afternoon picnic with family and friends.Would a good night's sleep help you wake up more refreshed, better able to tackle a new day's challenges?Warmer temperatures, the smell of spring, and colorful scenic vistas are returning to the Ozarks, offering fun and interesting outdoor exercise opportunities.But fulfilling our responsibilities to family and friends after a hard day's work can make it tough to eat right, get enough sleep, and exercise properly.Army Surgeon Gen., Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho's "Eat, Sleep and Move" campaign is designed to help achieve a healthy lifestyle.She cares--and she wants to help you enjoy a healthy lifestyle.And since we're all in this together, taking consideration of family members and friends can complement, as opposed to complicate, working this program into our busy lives.A healthy lifestyle can actually be easier to achieve if we get our families and friends onboard.The key is to start small -- do something. Every little bit is a healthy improvement.Mealtime can be a frustrating and challenging experience for parents who worry about whether their children are getting the right nutrition, according to Capt. Allison Sweet, former chief of Nutrition Education at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.But parents of picky eaters don't have to let mealtime become a frustrating challenge to proper eating, said Sweet.Sweet's article, "Feeding your picky eater," suggests many ways to reduce stress at the dinner table while encouraging a balanced diet.Using food as part of a punishment or reward system can teach a child to have an unhealthy relationship with food, said Sweet.But offering sweets as a reward sends the message that sweets are the best food, which can increase the desire for them and make it difficult to accept healthier options, said Sweet.Sweet suggests many more helpful ideas such as being a good role model, creating a positive and fun meal environment, and minimizing distractions during mealtime in here article found here: http://www.army.mil/article/92265/.Not only do our bodies need proper nutrition, they also need sufficient, quality sleep.According to the National Institute of Mental Health, getting enough sleep is necessary for good mental and physical health. In fact, sleep appears to be required just to survive.Rats deprived of sleep die within two or three weeks, a time frame similar to death by starvation, according to the institute."The body can run for a while, but not long," said Capt. Michelle Whitlock, a clinical psychologist who specializes in sleeping disorders at the hospital.People who don't get enough sleep suffer from a decreased level of concentration and have difficulty stabilizing their mood, said Whitlock.If people in the same household go to bed at different times, this can also cause sleeping problems. Irritability and family squabbles can often be attributed to a lack of sufficient, or quality sleep, said Whitlock.With increased sleep deprivation, more severe symptoms begin to occur, said Whitlock."You're going to hallucinate," said Whitlock. "It can happen in as short as one day."Many of the body's major organ and regulatory systems produce needed hormones and continue to work actively, and some dramatically increase in activity, as we sleep, according to the institute.
Sleep is important, and you can begin to affect a positive change in your family's sleeping habits through family exercise.It can be difficult to get someone else to exercise. But if you're diligent, you can facilitate a healthy change in lifestyle over time.A long weekend of driving and hiking to one of Missouri's breathtaking scenic locations may have everyone ready for a good night's sleep after a day of exercise and a long ride home.If regular exercise isn't part of your family's routine, you can start to implement it easier than you may think.Maybe you and your family would enjoy taking the dog for a walk in the park this weekend. Have you ever met a child who didn't like going to the park? The dog will like it too.You can even bring a picnic lunch to extend the afternoon exercise fun.What do your friends or family members like to do that will get their bodies moving?Whatever it is, you can do it with them.Capt. Jason Weir, outgoing chief of the Information Management Division at the hospital, said he and his family enjoy the exercise and camaraderie involved in learning Tai Kwon Do together. They take lessons as a family, as do other coworkers at the hospital, said Weir.Including the whole family also helps reduce the hindrance of having to accommodate those who aren't participating in the program, further increasing chances of success.Thoughtfully considering and including friends and family as you begin an eat, sleep and move healthy lifestyle change can make all of the difference.Live well and get healthy together.Start small -- do something. Every little bit is a healthy improvement.Include your family and friends and eat, sleep and move your way to a healthier lifestyle -- together.(Editor's note: John D. Brooks is the Marketing Specialist and Public Affairs Officer at the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)