A parent's guide to making time for fitness
Sticking to an exercise program can be challenging under the best of circumstances. But add a house full of children into the mix — each with their own up-to-the-minute demands and requirements — and working out can seem impossible. After all, how can you exercise if you can’t even go to the bathroom without a little person clinging to your legs?
But since exercise is critical for your well-being (and theirs, too), it should be a top priority. Not only will this commitment enhance your overall health, but it also offers an opportunity to model healthy behavior for your children. Watching you sweat shows them that exercise keeps them healthy, fit and strong. It will also boost your energy so you’ll have the stamina to keep up with them!
And finding time might be easier than you think. In fact, a little forethought and preparation will go a long way toward helping you incorporate workouts into family time — no matter your kids’ ages.
Here are six things that I’ve seen work:
- Make an appointment. If you block off time on your calendar to exercise just like you would any other appointment, you’ll be more likely to stay on track. Whether your workout of choice is a three-mile run or a 60-minute online yoga class, make sure your family understands that it is non-negotiable. And don’t be afraid to ask your partner or sitter to step in so you don’t have to put it off.
- Get creative. Do lunges in front of your child’s high chair during meal times—and make it into a game of peek-a-boo. Push into a plank position while reading stories to your toddler, and sprint up and down the stairs while doing laundry. As you near the end of the night, do push-ups, sit-ups and lunges during commercial breaks of your favorite shows.
- Include your kids. Use exercise balls, resistance bands and other props to make exercise more fun for them. Play a game of chase in the backyard (if they’re young) or shoot hoops (if they’re a little older). Better yet, invest in a mini trampoline. It’s a great way to introduce fitness to your children.
- Spread it out. Finding 60 minutes to exercise can be tough when you have young kids. Instead, try two or three fifteen-minute sets throughout the day. Take a fifteen-minute walk around the neighborhood in the morning, jump rope while your kids play in the backyard in the afternoon, and do a combination of push-ups and sit-ups while they watch a show before bed.
- Run with them. If your children are young, put them in a stroller and run. Bring along books, toys and snacks. If they're older, run alongside them while they ride their bikes. If you have rambunctious toddlers, break up your route with a stop at the park. You get to sneak in a workout while enjoying quality time with your children. Everybody wins.
- Play. Transform the playground into your gym. Do pull-ups on the monkey bars, triceps dips on a bench, and climb up the play equipment. Most importantly, play with your kids. Even pushing them on the swings burns calories. Little bursts of activity add up quickly!
Choose any one or a combination of these strategies for 30 minutes, three times a week, and you’ll easily burn 500 extra calories. And when life gets in the way—as it inevitably does—give yourself a break. A few days without exercise won’t demolish your commitment to fitness.
The key is getting back on the horse (or the treadmill) and making your well-being a priority. After all, when moms and dads are happy and healthy, the rest of the family will likely be, too.
To find a doctor at Henry Ford and talk about what kind of exercise is right for you, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC, is the Director of Athletic Training & Community Outreach with Henry Ford Sports Medicine. She is a regular contributor to Henry Ford LiveWell. Learn more about Christina.