How do you find time to exercise? As a parent, it is so easy either to feel guilty about taking time out for yourself, or to feel like there is no time for yourself at all. This is a conversation I often have with parents. People feel panicky about taking time away from their family, or they become overwhelmed with all the tasks and responsibilities that come with parenting and they give up their workout time as a result. And before you think I’m preaching from a mountaintop, I get it. I completely understand. My wife and I recently welcomed our third child a few months ago. I know how difficult finding time can be when you’re in the thick of parenting. How can we possibly juggle spending quality time (which I love) with all three kids AND maintain our physical health without taking something away from them?
What we really need to remember as busy parents is that taking time for yourself to exercise and meal prep actually takes nothing away from your family: it leaves you with more to give! Especially in the phase of parenting young children, being active will give you more energy, better moods, more motivation, and the ability to keep up with your kids. Instead of sitting in front of the TV, you can be running or dancing around WITH them! This is better quality time spent, and it is possible because you recognized the need to invest in yourself.
When people think of finding time to exercise, they automatically think of spending an hour at the gym. While this is obviously a good workout option, if you are struggling with taking time away from your family why not step outside the box for a moment? Why not think of ways to exercise that either don’t take you out of the house or, even better, actually include your family?
Here are several ways to find time to exercise and include movement in your busy family life.
- Walking absolutely counts as exercise! Walking is something that can be done as a family, with children of any age. Put babies in strollers, walk at a pace that preschoolers can keep up with, and go for reasonable distances. You will find being outside and laughing and talking together makes you feel refreshed and energized, and you will even get your steps in for the day as a bonus!
- Consider investing in a good jogging stroller, and take your little ones out with you on the pavement! This is a great nap time activity (if your baby will cooperate), or a fun way for your kids to see the world for an hour.
- Biking is a great workout! If your children are too young to ride themselves, invest in a bike trailer or seat. Because biking allows you to travel farther distances than on foot, make it a fun game to explore your city and find new parks and walks!
- Workout WITH your kids. Put the baby in the bouncy chair where you can see them and do a yoga or step aerobic routine in the living room. Or, put some music on and have a dance party with your kids. Finding ways to combine movement with parenting is a win for everyone!
- Recognize movement you already do. Raking the leaves in the yard as a family? That’s exercise! Getting your kids to help you dig the carrots in the garden? That involves squatting, bending, lifting, and can really make you sweat! Recognize that non-traditional workouts are still workouts, and if we count these our mental stress over not exercising will decrease.
To all the parents out there:
As you can see, there are many ways that you can stay fit and active AND parent at the same time. I still maintain that taking three 45-minute blocks out of a 168 week is nothing to feel guilty about, but we have to start where you are. If you don’t want to take time away from your family at this point in your journey, then use the ways I’ve given you (or come up with your own!) to involve your family in your fitness routine. Whatever you choose, remember that regular exercise is an investment in yourself AND your kids. Incorporating movement as a family means that it will be normal for them to move, and will build healthy habits that will be a gift to them as they grow into healthy active young adults. It will be so rewarding to watch them follow in your healthy footsteps.
Remember, parenting is a lot like being on an airplane in an emergency: you cannot help others until you put your OWN oxygen mask on your face. So however you manage it, make sure you take time to sweat regularly, for your entire family’s sake!