Between soccer practices, dinner prep, loads (and loads) of laundry, work meetings, and the occasional doctors visit, finding time to fit in exercise—and do even the smallest things to stay healthy—can be a real challenge for parents. The good news: it can be done. Follow these tips to maximize your time to squeeze in that much-needed exercise to remain healthy and stress free.
Look for Holes. No, not in your 10 year old’s socks, but rather, look for small times throughout your day when you can squeeze in small bursts of exercise. Love watching Dancing With the Stars? Make use of your time by doing crunches on every commercial break during the two-hour show. Waiting for the kids to finish up karate? Bring your running shoes and do your own boot camp in the parking lot. (A quick search of HIIT—high-intensity interval training—workouts online can help you create a routine).
Stash a Resistance Band. Utilize the time you need a break from office work by pulling out a resistance band and performing some great lower and upper body strength training moves. Target your triceps with overhead triceps presses, build your biceps with hammer curls, and strengthen your outer quads by doing side-to-side shuffles. On the latter, speed up the pace to get a cardio workout, too.
Wake Up (and Go To Bed) 15 Minutes Early. Sleep is precious. But by kicking your snooze button habit and by DVRing Jimmy Kimmel, you can fit in 30 minutes of exercise over the course of your day. The first week will be tough, but once you do it for a span of seven days it will become second nature.
Wear Your Baby. Or, rather, just carry her. When babies are young—as in, less than 6 to 8 months old—they’re relatively easy to carry and not as anxious to crawl. Take advantage of this time and “try carrying him or her around with you as often as possible,” suggests Beth Shaw, founder of world-renowned YogaFit studios, the largest yoga school in the world. “Consciously engage your core and leg muscles when you pick up and put down your child, making sure to bend from the knees instead of the back. This should do just as much toning as multiple sets of squats or dead lifts at the gym.”
Child Share. Nanny sharing has become the norm among stay-at-home parents, who work part-time. But for those who are full-time stay-at-home parents, enlisting your mommy and daddy friends to watch your kids while you work out (and vice versa) is a great way to get those 30 minutes of recommended exercise in a few times a week.
Get a group together for exercise and play group! SAMPLE
Mix Up Your Family Activities.
According to a recent study from the Journal of Marriage and Family, quality trumps quantity when it comes to spending time with your kids. So make the most of those moments by sneaking in a little exercise, too. “Activities like swimming and biking can be lots of fun for you and your children,” says Shaw. “Instead of driving to the supermarket, attach a baby seat to your bike and pedal there, or, spend an afternoon at the pool helping your little one improve his or her swimming.”
Take Advantage of (Free!) Child Care. Sometimes there are things in life that are free. And that includes child care. Enroll in a gym that offers free child watch services or, at the very least, offers it for a minimal fee. (Many YMCAs offer free child care for its members.) That way you can Zumba, kick box, and Spin your way to six-pack abs while your little one is having a play date with 10 other kids his age.
Include Your Child. Monkey see, monkey do. If you include your child in your workouts, whether they’re attempting Downward Dog, pushups, or planks, you’re showing your little one that staying healthy and fit is an important part of your life. And the more she sees Mom and Dad exercising their bodies, the more likely she is to want to commit herself to doing the same.
Make house chores fun! It seems impossible that cleaning could ever be considered fun or a great workout. But the truth is, anyone who has ever mopped a floor, cleaned a bathroom, or vacuumed a flight of stairs knows that cleaning is definitely a workout. Make it even more so by getting the kids in on the action. “Transform routine chores like cleaning the house into fun, active games your children can participate in,” advises Shaw. “For example, see who can pick up and put away 10 things the fastest. This will get both of you moving and laughing to boot.” Bonus: your house gets a pick-me-up and you squeeze in a workout.
Stay Hydrated. Water may not be the proverbial fountain of youth, but it’s pretty darn close. Besides improving your skin and keeping your digestive system moving, H2O can help keep cravings and hunger at bay. “Getting dehydrated will make you feel even more tired and hungrier than usual,” says Shaw, “so take a bottle with you everywhere and sip it constantly.” Rule of thumb: drink half your body weight in water (in ounces) every day.
Once you start following the above advice, you’ll find it gets easier each and every day.
Blake Miller is a Charlotte, North Carolina-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in REDBOOK, Dr. Oz: The Good Life, Family Circle, SELF, Forbes.com, and more. Follow her Fit & Fierce Mama blog.