Whether you’re a new dad or a seasoned pro, there’s no doubt you want to be the best dad ever.
But being a great father goes way beyond teaching your kid to ride a bike or throw a ball.
Happy, healthy dads make certain habits a priority in their lives so they can be great parents and spouses.
Here, learn 6 habits of healthy dads that can make you a better, stronger father.
1. Healthy dads see their doctors
According to a 2018 survey by the Cleveland Clinic, only 60 percent of men see their doctors for a yearly check-up.
Whether it’s because you don’t think your health is a huge concern or it’s something you don’t talk about—53 percent agree, the survey found—it’s important to re-think your old ways.
An annual physical with your primary care doctor can prevent and identify early signs of conditions like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and prostate cancer and ensure you’re getting the screenings you need.
Regularly visits can also help your doctor identify symptoms that may actually be signs of serious medical conditions. For example, snoring and high blood pressure are symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, and erectile dysfunction can be a sign of type-2 diabetes or blocked arteries.
So make that appointment—and put an end to your wife’s nagging once and for all.
2. They don’t smoke
The amount of smokers have declined over the years, but more than 15 percent of men in the U.S. still smoke.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death, and accounts for about 1 in 5 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
Although you know secondhand smoke is unhealthy, thirdhand smoke has garnered a lot of attention in recent years because of its dangers, especially to kids.
Thirdhand smoke is the residue from smoking on the smoker’s clothes, hair, and car, as well as the carpet, furniture and walls of the smoker’s home.
A January 2019 study in the journal Tobacco Insights found not smoking around kids doesn’t prevent them from being exposed to nicotine.
Not only do kids inhale the dangerous chemicals, but since they’re always putting their hands in their mouths, they’re ingesting it too.
Higher levels of exposure to thirdhand smoke may also be linked to respiratory problems like wheezing and coughing, the same study found.
3. They do their best to eat healthy
Although you might think you’re a “big guy” or your beer belly is endearing, carrying extra lbs anywhere in your body could kill you.
More than 73 percent of men are overweight or obese in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Obesity is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an epidemic and silent killer.
Research shows men who aren’t considered overweight are at risk too.
A December 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found men who carry weight around their midsection, even if they’re slim in other areas of their body, have twice the mortality risk of men who are only overweight or obese.
Overhauling your diet isn’t going to happen overnight, especially if you’ve been eating that way for years.
But making changes and creating new, healthy habits can make a huge difference in your health.
Small changes might include bringing a healthy lunch to work instead of ordering in, put an end to snacking in front of the TV, or adding extra veggies to your meals.
4. They make exercise a priority
You might think the goal of your workout is only to get bigger and stronger, but exercise is vital to your physical, mental and emotional health too, something healthy dads already know.
- Prevent weight gain
- Improve blood glucose levels
- Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Improve your brain health
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Reduce the risk of certain types of cancer
- Improve sleep
- Boost mood and combat stress
- Improve sexual function
- Improve longevity
Of course, whether you have toddlers or big kids, staying in shape can also help you keep up with them.
Joining a gym is an obvious first start, but if it’s not your thing, there are so many ways to get in more physical activity.
Look for organized sports leagues, running or cycling groups, or sign up for a fitness app you can do in the privacy of your home.
5. Healthy dads find ways to cope with stress
The World Health Organization recently announced that burnout is a syndrome, linked to chronic work stress, and suffice to say, most men are at risk.
According to a survey by LinkedIn, 50 percent of men say work stress, workload and lack of work/life balance top the list of reasons.
High levels of chronic stress can also lead to anxiety and depression.
A September 2018 study in JAMA Pediatrics found more than 4 percent of fathers of young children screened positive for depression—almost as much as mothers (5 percent).
It’s important to address stress, because left unchecked, it will only get worse.
Make time for downtime, take up a new hobby, seek out a mentor or get a referral for a therapist.
If you also struggle with anxiety, depression, past trauma or addiction, there is help available.
6. Healthy dads make time for their partners
Once the baby comes along, it’s easy for all romance, or any time for each other for that matter, to go out the window.
According to a 2011 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 67 percent of couples say their marital satisfaction took a nosedive after having a baby.
Research shows this dissatisfaction can also increase the chances for children to have poor social skills, develop depression and behavioral problems.
Couples who make time for date nights, or carve out time for each other on a regular basis, have happier, healthier marriages.
The good news is that date nights don’t necessarily have to be dinner and movie.
A February 2019 study in the Journal Of Marriage and Family found painting or playing a board game may increase levels of oxytocin, “the love hormone,” even more.