Keeping your kids fit and healthy without ‘exercise’?

By Sabrine Herridge

Losing weight and keeping healthy is difficult enough let alone having the trouble of entertaining the kids and juggling a full-time job. Donya Lajili, a mother of three gives us an insight into how she maintained a physical lifestyle and encouraged her children to do so. Firstly, she explained the importance of a healthy diet, and daily water intake. Encouraging kids to eat vegetables can be a chore in itself, but there are ways to make them nice. It’s a known fact that children often copy the behaviour from their surroundings. This is why Donya would make sure from a young age that her children and her husband eat together. 

Setting a good example: Who would have thought the dining room would be the answer?

This is the first step in making sure the kids eat healthy foods. At dinner they would all eat the same meal, this meant that if the parents ate a salad, so would the three kids. Along with their meal would be a glass of water. Water has many benefits but unfortunately is often substituted by fizzy or sugary drinks. Donya didn’t allow anything but water at the table unless it was a special occasion. Donya explains how this then becomes a habit, and is continued throughout their household now even though the kids are grown up. Whilst many parents complain about how having kids has negatively impacted on their own eating habits, Donya actually thinks it has encouraged her and her husband to eat healthier because of what she referred to as the “domino effect”. If she consumed calorific foods then so would the children.

School lunches were one aspect of healthy eating Donya and her husband found difficult as this was where there would be outside influence on their children. Whislt many schools now monitor what a child brings in their packed lunch, 10 years ago this was not always the case. Balancing treats, with vegetables was difficult but soon learnt.

Fitness and outdoor activities

In a society where technology is the dominant form of entertainment, getting children to play outside and keep active is increasingly difficult. Donya explains how swimming played a huge part in her family’s lives. Each Sunday the parents and the three kids would go swimming for approximately 3 hours. This was great for both the children and the parents as each would swim with the kids and play. As a result all of the kids are great swimmers, even better than herself Donya mentions! Encouraging fitness through play also meant that the kids didn’t necessarily see their swimming sessions as exercise, but a fun activity instead.

On top of weekly swimming, regular jogging activities were also performed by the family. This was also used to encourage bonding as Donya said it would often be a father and son jog, and a mother daughters jog. Bootcamps are one activity Donya wished she had known about back when her kids were younger. She explains how even now on her outdoor activities she sees groups of people jogging around Northampton and doing fitness classes in the park with their children. These groups promote a healthy lifestyle to those maybe finding difficulty in suggesting activities to their children, and as a bonus they get the whole family out of the house and away from the main causes of distraction ‘technology’.

Donyas advice and tips

“Home exercise and dvds are great for a rainy day. Personally I have dedicated a whole room in my house to fitness. I have weights, a bike, and a cross trainer along with various fitness DVD’s. They’re not too bad if you do them properly.”

She also explained how going outside is also essential but not for everyone. Being comfortable is important and if you’re comfortable at home exercising then don’t let that stop you.

  • Gym memberships are not essential. If childcare is a problem then make the compromise and get them involved. Only good can come fom this.
  • Bootcamps are not to pricey and if the motivation of others helps then thins may be a great way to get you moving.

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Why did health become such an important part in your life?

“After giving birth to 2 children and losing the baby weight within weeks I assumed weight would be not problem for me until I had my third child. She was born via a c-section and as the weeks after are difficult and uncomfortable I only put weight on. When I eventually weighed myself I was a little shocked and knew I had to do something”

Why was bringing your children along with you on this fabulous journey so important?

“Many of my friends who were already mothers had warned me about the dangers of letting children decide what they wanted to eat and when they wanted to play outside. This was when I thought that if these were scheduled into their day from day one then hopefully it shall become a habit”

Now your kids are grown up do you continue to do regular exercise?

“Since they have grown I have set myself and my husband up with a gym membership which we try to use at least twice a week. I do prefer exercising outdoors though or in the comfort of my home. I think me and my husband got so used to looking after the children that we had to find alternative methods of exercise and thankfully we enjoy them”

Has your methods helped anybody else with finding time to keep fit as a parent?

“Thankfully it has. I love helping others and so when my colleagues would tell me about their fussy children I encouraged them to eat dinner together to work as a role model. whilst this takes time to become effective, they assured me it did have a positive impact”


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