Staying Active

A Parent’s Guide to Making Time for Fitness

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By Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC

Sticking to an exercise program can be challenging under the best of circumstances. But add a house full of children to the mix — each with their own demands and up-to-the-minute requirements — and squeezing in a workout can seem impossible. After all, how can you find time to 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), finding a way to squeeze it in should be at the top of your priority list. Not only will this commitment enhance your overall health, it also offers an opportunity to model healthy behavior for your children. Watching you sweat shows them that exercise helps them be healthy, fit and strong. It will also boost your energy, so you’ll have the stamina to keep up with them!

How can you find the time? It may be easier than you think. In fact, a little forethought and preparation will go a long way toward helping you fit workouts into your family time — no matter what your kids’ ages.

Here are 6 things that I’ve seen work:

  1. Make an appointment. If you block time in 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 3-mile run or a 60-minute yoga class, make sure your family understands that time is non-negotiable. And don’t be afraid to ask your partner or a sitter to step in, so you can hit the gym.
  1. 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 short stories to your toddler, and sprint up and down the stairs while you’re doing the laundry. As you near the end of the night, do push-ups, sit-ups and lunges during the commercial breaks of your favorite shows. Just flex your creative muscles to find ways to sneak in exercise.
  1. Include your kids. You don’t need to be alone to get a solid workout. Instead, incorporate your kids into your plan to get fit. 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.
  1. Spread it out. Finding 60 minutes to workout can be tough when you have young kids. Instead, try doing 2 to 3, 15-minute sets throughout the day. Here’s what I would suggest: Take a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood in the morning, jump rope while your kids play in the backyard in the afternoon and then do a combination of push-ups and sit-ups when they watch a show before bed. It takes effort, but it’s totally worth it.
  1. Run with it. When your children are young, put them in a stroller and run. Bring along books, toy cars and snacks. As they get older, you can run alongside them while they ride their bikes. But what if you’re dealing with a rambunctious toddler? Instead of expecting him or her to sit quietly in a stroller while you run for 45 minutes, break up your route with a visit to a park at the halfway point. What’s the payoff? You sneak a workout in while enjoying quality time with your children. Everybody wins.
  1. Play. Here’s another fun idea: Transform the playground into your gym. Do pull-ups on the monkey bars, triceps dips on a bench and climb up (and down) the play equipment. Most importantly, when you go to the playground with your kids, play right along with them. Even pushing your kids on the swings burns calories. The little bursts of activity add up quickly.

Choose any one or a combination of these strategies for 30 minutes, 3 times each week, and it turns out 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, of course, is getting back on the horse (or the treadmill) and making your well-being a priority. After all, when mom (or dad too!) is happy and healthy, the rest of the family will likely be, too.

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Written By:

Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC

Christina Eyers, Ed.D., AT, ATC, leads athletic training at Henry Ford’s Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit. Educated at the University of Michigan, University of Alabama and Central Michigan University, Christina became a certified athletic trainer because as a young girl sport was big influence in her life. Pursuing a career in athletic medicine allowed her to continue that passion while helping others. Christina has also served as president for the Michigan Athletic Trainers Society and co-authored research in the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Christina’s dream vacation spot is on a remote beach in Tahiti with no phone or connection to the outside world - just a week of sun, surf and beach!

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