Does raising kids get in the way of your intentions to exercise regularly? Many busy parents plan to work out every day, but plenty of them go to bed each night without having found the time for any meaningful physical activity.
Making time for exercise is beneficial in many ways: It helps to lift your mood, boost your energy levels, control your weight, lower your risk of chronic health diseases and improve your sleep quality. Although it may seem daunting to find additional time in your schedule for physical activity, it’s worth it: Many people feel that they’re better parents, partners, friends and employees when they exercise regularly.
“Parents who exercise regularly not only take care of themselves, they’re serving as role models for their children, who will notice that their parents prioritize physical activity and healthy living,” says family medicine specialist, Gopi Patel, M.D. “In many families, kids exercise along with their parents, especially when the parents regularly incorporate fun physical activities into family time.”
Break it Up: Adults should get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day, or 150 minutes per week. If you don’t always have an entire half hour to devote to exercise, you can break the time into two or three chunks over the course of the day.
Put it on the Schedule: Block off exercise time on your calendar, and follow through on it the same way that you would honor a work meeting or a doctor’s appointment.
Conquer it Early: Consider exercising in the morning, before unexpected work or family plans may derail your efforts to get in some physical activity. You’ll start off your day feeling accomplished, with one notable task from your to-do list already checked off. It may help if you set out your workout clothing the night before; you’ll have one less thing to think about in the morning.
Dr. Patel says, “Some parents wake up early to exercise before their kids get out of bed and/or before they have to go to work.” This is ideal for morning people, but it may not be realistic for night owls. If you tend to stay up late, plan to exercise after your kids go to bed in the evening, then follow through on your intentions.
Simple ways to squeeze in exercise
There are many ways that busy parents can work out in manageable chunks. Try these ideas for 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes at a time:
- Go for a walk or run. Take a lap around the neighborhood, jog in place or step on a treadmill (if you have one).
- Use your own body weight for resistance. You don’t need special equipment or a gym membership to do push-ups, crunches, squats, burpees, lunges or planks. A few minutes is all that you need to work your core muscles.
- Use your child as a “weight.” Some people hold their babies while they do crunches, arm curls or squats. They may ask an older child to sit or lie on their back while they do push-ups or planks. You can also put your baby or toddler in a jogging stroller for resistance when you walk or run around the neighborhood, especially if it’s hilly.
- Involve your child. Do you have 10 minutes to dance together in the kitchen while you’re getting ready for the day? Can you run alongside your grade-schooler while they’re biking around the neighborhood? Find ways to do activities together that will help you stay active.
- Exercise during downtime. When your child has soccer practice or art class, spend some of the time walking around, instead of sitting and catching up on texts.
- Increase your intensity. If you only have 10 or 15 minutes for a walk, go at a faster pace than usual to burn more calories and get more from the workout.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Gopi Patel, M.D.
- To make an appointment with Dr. Patel, or a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.