|family fun time | photo: vharjadi|
We all think our lives are busy, but ask any parent and they will tell you that they miss "busy." Being a parent makes busy feel like Sunday brunch in bed. Without a doubt, being a parent is rewarding, but between work, household duties, family time, social obligations, and running children to all of their appointments and social engagements it’s all too easy to neglect another aspect of your life: Yourself.
One great way to take care of yourself is through physical activity. Some of the benefits of exercising are improved health, more energy, improved mood, better sleep, and an improved sex life. While all those benefits (and the list doesn’t end there) sound great, the parents out there are most certainly saying, “Of course I should be exercising - I already know that, but when? How?”
Being a parent and trying to work out can be difficult but it isn’t impossible. Here are some great ways to incorporate physical activity into your life when you have young children:
- Turn your lunch hour into a power hour: If you work outside the home, consider using your lunch hour to get in some physical activity and eating your lunch at your desk either before or after. If you can’t make it to a gym, simply head outside and walk around or roam the building. Do squats, lunges, or stretches at your desk. If you can, spend part of the day sitting on a stability ball to help improve your core strength and balance.
- Nap time is go time: While your children nap, get a quick workout in. There are thousands and thousands of fitness DVDs you can try - simply turn the sound down and start to sweat while your children catch a few Zs. To save money, visit your local library, second hand store, or neighborhood yard sales to find fitness videos.
- Get out there and play: Kids love to play, and you shouldn’t be afraid to be like a kid yourself when playing with your children. If it’s a nice day, head to the park or your backyard and get your heart rate up with a game of tag, duck-duck-goose, jump rope, hopscotch, ring around the rosy, or a water balloon fight. Push your kids on the swings, go down the slide with them, and climb around on the jungle gym. If the weather isn’t cooperative, you can always play indoors. Some of the activities already mentioned can be played indoors or you can put on some music and dance the day away.
- It’s double duty time: Even when you have children the house still has to be cleaned and meals still have to be prepared. While you’re going about your household chores try incorporating some extra physical activity. For instance, if you have to go up or down stairs try making more trips than necessary or taking the steps faster than normal. If you’re waiting for water to boil or the sink to fill up do a few squats. Try doing some lunges while you vacuum.
- Turn your kids into exercise equipment: There are a lot of devices available which allow parents to incorporate their children in their exercise routine. For instance, if you run purchase a jogging stroller; if you bike purchase a trailer that pulls behind. You can also purchase baby carriers which strap to your chest or back to make taking your child with you on a walk relatively easy. The added benefit of all these devices is that they allow you to burn more calories than you would if you just went running, biking, or walking on your own.
- Let’s make a deal: A lot of fitness facilities now offer daycare for children; however, if your facility doesn’t or if a gym isn’t in your budget there are other options. Make a deal with your spouse, a family member, or close friend where he or she watches your children for a few hours while you exercise and you’ll return the favor.
- Just say no: Sure, those super close parking spaces reserved for expectant mothers and mothers with young children are convenient and oh-so tempting, but resist the urge. Park further out when your child is young and carry him or her in; make sure to use the opposite arm on the way out so you build and tone evenly. If your child is in a baby carrier try doing a few bicep curls as you walk.
- Let your children be your workout partner: Typically, children will be more than happy to workout with you and do mini-versions of whatever it is your doing. Granted, there will probably be interruptions that prevent you from going full out but some physical activity is better than none.
- Pop in a video: While your children are watching the same animated adventure for the thousandth time, you can exercise. You can use an elliptical, treadmill, stationary bike, or just get down on the floor and do other exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, planks, lunges, stretches, and squats.
Don’t allow parenthood to kick exercise to the curb - the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.