8 Tips for Staying Active When You Have Kids
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Physical activity levels typically plummet when adults become
parents (and continue to stay low whether your kids are newborns or
You can stay active and fit even if you have kids by making
exercise a priority, shortening your workouts (and increasing intensity) and
having a social support system to help watch your kids so you can fit in a
Exercising together as a family, setting goals and making up
your mind to put in the effort are other keys to staying active with kids
By Dr. Mercola
In a two-year study of young adults, what
do you think impacted levels of physical activity more… marriage or having
kids? If you guessed kids, you’re absolutely right.
The study found that having a child significantly decreased physical
activity levels in the parents,1 for
reasons I probably don’t need to list.
Suffice to say, when you have kids your priorities change such that your
morning workout session turns into getting your children fed and out the
door to school… or you use it to catch up on an extra hour of much-needed
sleep, after staying up through the night with a newborn.
The scientific literature is full of similar examples of studies showing
just how much of a hit parents’ exercise levels take once children are in
After having a first or subsequent child, 20 percent of the young women
in one study changed from being active to inactive2
Parents with dependent children are more inactive than
non-parents, with mothers generally less active than fathers3
In both men and women, having a child significantly
reduced leisure-time physical activity levels4
You Can Stay Active with Kids: 8 Key Tips
If you’re a parent, you already know how
difficult it can be to make exercise a priority again… now you need to know how it
can be done -- and, yes, you canstay
active and physically fit even if you have children. Here’s how…
1. Stay Active All Day
For those days when you can’t fit in a structured exercise session, stay
active anyway. Stand instead of sit while you fold laundry, put your kids in
a stroller and take a walk around your neighborhood, walk from the far end
of the parking lot when running errands, and generally move around as much
as you can.
This type of non-exercise
activity is actually emerging
as a key player in optimal health, and may be just as important, if not more important
than structured exercise. A simple goal is to stand up once every 10 minutes
while you’re sitting.
2. Shorten Your Workouts
It’s a myth that you have to exercise for an hour, or even half an hour,
daily to stay fit. If you exercise intensely, and correctly, you can achieve
high levels of fitness with 20-minute workouts, or less. High-intensity
interval training (HIIT) is
one such example. You can also break up your longer workouts into smaller
15-minute sessions twice a day.
3. Make Exercise a Priority
When you do have down time, resist the urge to watch TV, surf the Web or go
shopping. Instead, use the time for exercise. Realize that anytime you spend
your ‘me’ time doing something that gives you only instant gratification
(like stopping for a latte), you’re substituting your long-term goal of
physical fitness and health for a fleeting quick fix.
4. Cultivate Social Support
The more opportunities you have to carve a few minutes out for yourself, the
easier it will be to fit in an exercise session. Extended family nearby
works well if you need someone to watch your child for an hour or two, but
if that’s not an option, cultivate friendships with other parents and trade
off watching each other’s kids once or twice a week.
5. Establish Family Fitness
Walking with your baby in the stroller, or exercising at home while your
baby naps, are options for infants and toddlers. When you have preschool
aged or older kids, make fitness a family affair by riding bikes, going for
hikes, swimming, ice skating and engaging in other vigorous activities as a
family. Here are 10
more ideas to stay active as a family.
6. Set Goals
Establish small realistic goals to help keep your motivation going. For
instance, set a goal to lose one or two pounds a week, or shed one pants
size a month. As you reach each milestone, set another goal and give
yourself a reward for staying on track.
7. Put in the Effort
It takes work to stay physically fit, so realize that you will have to work
hard to achieve the benefits. But once you do, you will gain increased
energy that makes running a household and taking care of kids easier and
more enjoyable. The more you exercise, the better you’re likely to feel,
physically and emotionally, which makes the hard work well worth it.
8. Be a Role Model
Your kids are watching your every move, and what better example could you
set than to teach your kids the importance of staying physically fit? Every
time you fit in a workout, go for a hike or walk the dog with your kids,
you’re teaching them a lesson about fitness that will hopefully stay with
them for a lifetime.
Remember How Good Exercise Is for You
It’s easy to put exercise on the
backburner… until you remind yourself just how much you stand to gain from
it. Having kids is actually among the greatest motivations to exercise that
there is, as, after all, you’ve now got more reason than ever to lead a
long, healthy life.
Toward that end, one of the primary benefits of exercise is that it
normalizes your insulin and leptin levels, with the secondary benefits of
weight loss and normalization of blood sugars. These basic factors in turn
cascade outward, creating a ripple effect of positive health benefits, which
Improving your brainpower and boosting your IQ
Lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer
Building strong bones
Lowering your blood pressure
Balancing your mood and fighting depression
Increasing your energy levels
Acquiring fewer colds
Lowering your risk of diabetes and reversing
Slowing down your aging process
Did You Know That Adults Need Playtime Too?
Unstructured playtime is essential for
kids to build their imagination, relieve stress and simply be kids. But
when’s the last time you took time for play? Regular playtime for adults,
which could include time for exercise, hobbies, laughing and just general
goofing around, is actually quite beneficial and even necessary for optimal
well-being. Making time for play offers:5
Stress relief: Taking
a break from your worries feels good, and if you laugh while you do it
you’ll also relax your muscles, optimize your blood flow and even boost
your immune system.
Better physical health: Back
pain, fatigue, sleep troubles and indigestion often disappear when you
make more time for play.
Increased self-esteem and productivity: When
you take time for fun, it makes you feel good about yourself and about
your life in general. Playing during your free time also boosts
creativity and enhances your problem-solving skills, which, in turn, may
make you perform better at work.
Social support: Fun
outings with friends and family help you to strengthen relationships and
enhance the social support in your life.
Fortunately, there’s an easy and proven effective remedy for play
deprivation: go out and play! If you’ve forgotten how, you can help wake up
your inner “Peter Pan” by:
Telling jokes or funny stories
Playing games you enjoy (chess, checkers, Sudoku,
crossword puzzles, cards, Monopoly)
Spending time playing with kids
Taking part in social activities in your community or
Playing with your pet
Taking up a new hobby (knitting, model ship building,
Letting go and letting your imagination run wild