Great question; many parents struggle to make time for exercise. The key is in finding a realistic daily rhythm that allows time for good self-care in addition to meeting the needs of your growing family — and adapting it as you and your kids move through different ages and stages.
Because they need lots of care and attention, it’s tough to get in a sustained workout when you’re caring for infants and toddlers — and planning to exercise during naptime can be an exercise in frustration. Here are a few ideas to try:
• Connect with other parents via local moms’ groups, neighborhood gatherings, faith communities, and other networking opportunities. Suggest swapping childcare 2-3 times a week to give each other time to exercise.
• Enlist help from your spouse, partner, or other adult in your household. Could you go through a 30-minute online workout or DVD before they leave for work or after they get home? Could someone supervise the kids while you go for a walk or hit the gym before or after dinner?
• Create an intermittent circuit workout to do throughout the day; you’ll still benefit from short bursts of exercise. When you have a few minutes, bang out a few pushups, planks, or burpees. See the 30-minute workout below for specific ideas.
• Even little ones enjoy going for walks, hikes, and other active adventures; make active fun a part of your family’s routine.
Exercising with preschoolers and young school-age children is a little easier because they’re more independent:
• Set them up with some fun, busy things to do so you can keep an eye on them while you’re working up a sweat. Make it special by bringing out things they only get to play with when Mommy’s exercising. Simple arts and crafts, dress-up, puppets, and favorite toys can help keep them occupied.
• Kids this age love active play, so get outside and run around with them. It’s not the same as a workout, but it’s still physical activity and promotes good health. Kick a soccer ball, play tag or duck-duck-goose, or go to a park and play on the jungle gym.
• Again, ask friends and family members for help in watching the kids so you can work out. Or pay a tween or teen to entertain your kids after school for 30-60 minutes.
Older kids and teens still need a lot of your time and energy, but they’re old enough to understand that Mom needs to exercise now and non-emergency issues can wait until you’re done. At this age, exercise becomes even more of a family lifestyle as you ride bikes, hike, swim, and play sports together.
The best solution for you may be a combination of strategies; brainstorming with a few other like-minded moms could be very helpful. The important thing is to keep trying different ideas, and keep making exercise a priority; where there’s a will, there’s a way. In terms of family well-being, everybody wins when parents stay fit and healthy.