Steve Cross

martial arts

With the growing rate of obesity in children in the United States kids need all the help they can get in terms of establishing healthy habits early in life.

I have found that a good martial arts or gymnastics program can be a fantastic vehicle for young children to start developing these kinds of habits.

I think we can all agree that one of the first steps in creating healthy habits is to take an objective look at our present lifestyle as it relates to diet, exercise, sleep and our overall outlook. 

These four elements comprise a basic foundation that can lead to optimum health or to disease, depending on the habits we have developed over time. 

If we look clearly at our present choices and match them against how holistic health is defined, it becomes easier to see what needs to be changed and what needs to be more clearly encouraged.

Because we are constantly exposed to toxins, be it through our foods, the environment or through stress, one of the most essential ingredients in beginning a healthy regimen is to reduce toxic intake. 

Learning to identify harmful additives is the first step in determining which foods are healthful and which are not.

Reading food labels carefully and choosing natural products is essential if we want to make substantial changes in our diet.

Consuming fresh organic produce as often as possible, making our local health food store our grocery-shopping destination and steering clear of foods containing GMO (genetically modified organism) products is a great way to begin. We should take care to choose recipes that require steaming, lightly sautéing, baking and broiling as opposed to frying to help ensure a more conscious health practice. 

In addition, reducing toxic elements in the home is essential for a healthful lifestyle. 

This means using green household cleaning products and buying allergy and toxic-free materials instead of those that contain harmful chemicals. 

A little bit of research into these areas can keep us informed of the latest green products on the market as well as how to make our own.

Daily exercise, whether it is lifting weights, aerobic exercise, enjoying a favorite active sport or joining a yoga, martial arts or dance class are excellent ways to strengthen and tone our muscles and organs.

Additionally, these types of activities help to reduce toxic waste through our perspiration.  Physical exercise is also a great way to reduce stress, which in turn eliminates toxins.

Getting a healthful dose of quality sleep each night is essential for a solid and enduring health practice.

As a former power lifting coach, I can tell you that superior rest equates to superior strength. Try to get to bed at the same time each night. 

Focus on deep, rhythmic breathing to release the tensions of the day and drink a cup of your favorite, soothing herbal tea before retiring to ensure a restful and uninterrupted sleep.

Focusing on a positive outlook is one of the key factors in a healthful lifestyle. Staying in the present is one way to keep centered and clear. 

There are many practices that help keep the mind free of stress such as meditation and breathing exercises.  Finding a suitable practice and incorporating its teachings whenever we feel tension helps us to stay on track. Optimism is cumulative and is one of the most important elements in creating and maintaining healthy habits that will endure the span of your life.

See you on the mat!

Steve Cross is the head instructor and owner of Cross Martial Arts Center in Midlothian. Cross is a 5th Degree Taekwon-Do Black Belt, a Certified International Instructor and a veteran high school communications and history teacher. For questions call 972-775-1857 or go online at