Having kids, while being hugely rewarding, is something that takes up a lot of your time; parenting is, after all, a full-time job.
There are a lot of people who already struggle to find the motivation to get to a gym. Adding kids to the mix can often spell disaster for someone’s efforts at exercising more. We've all heard the phrase “use it or lose it” before and it applies very much to your mobility and fitness. If you stop moving you’ll begin down the slippery slope of an unhealthy lifestyle and possibly even injury.
Where to StartSo, what can we do?
Well, we already know that you're time poor and likely exhausted too. I think it’s a good time to ask the question, “What are your goals?” Do you need to actually go to a gym? Some people need that kind of accountability, and that is fine, but many of us do not.
If you've decided that a gym setting is not necessary or just not feasible, then let’s continue now by forgetting exercise as something that has to happen at a designated time of the day on a particular day of the week for a predetermined period of time.
It doesn’t matter when you move, it matters that you move.
Sprinkle little bits of movement throughout the entirety of your day instead of just into 30 or 60 minutes. Lead a more movement rich lifestyle (walk to the shops or playground, sit on the ground instead of a couch etc) and that will take care of many of the basic needs people have for heading to a gym.
Include Your KidsWhilst they're little, try to carry your children places (in your arms if you can). Let them start to see the world and continue to bond with you while they do. When my kids were little, taking them outside was one of the things that calmed them (and us) down when they were upset.
Just a small walk to the end of our street and back was like magic for everyone’s stress levels. But I know it can be easy at this point to fall into the trap of thinking that going out for a walk is just too hard, and you know what? Maybe a big walk would be. But a short trip (because it really does not have to be long) is a great way to start and it gets you out of the house. There is absolutely no problem starting with a simple 60 second foray into the great outdoors.
As your kids get older, take them on hikes or walks. Start small and build them up. Just like you wouldn’t grab the heaviest dumbbell in the gym, don’t expect them to be able to start at your level. After all, you've been on your feet for most of your life and they're just getting started.
Try not to have any hard plans for timing and distance and let your kids be your guide. One of the most enjoyable hikes we've done was when we left the navigation up to the children.
And do you know what the best bit is? When they get tired, you get to carry them back! I know it might not sound like great fun, but I think most people will have a fond memory of being shoulder carried by their parents at some point. Here’s your chance to pass that joyful moment onto your kids.
Now, let’s not forget you in this equation; while they're up on your shoulders or on your hip taking in the world, you’ll be working hard. All the muscles required to keep them up there and you on your feet moving forward need to be active, and (just because everyone wants a great core exercise) this will most certainly have your core firing... especially if they're squirming.
Have you ever tried to carry someone, even a little someone, up a hill?
Get ready for a Heart Rate Peak!
Bonus BitsCarrying your kids or simply holding them as your “weight” is a great way to get some extra loaded movement in. This is something I like to refer to as “Organic Load.” Organic Load is a brilliant term I pinched from fellow PTA Global Ambassador John Polley and have used ever since he mentioned it.
I will often do some Organically Loaded movement with my kids. But what’s most important is that they love it. I have two children, and if I do some lifting with one of them, you can bet the other will be there waiting for their turn. In a short couple of minutes, I'm tired and we’re all smiling. It’s great.
With this, it’s important to note that you should always move within your bubble. If you overreach and pop that bubble you’ll likely hurt yourself, so stay within your means.
All Fun and GamesPlay games with your children. Challenge them and challenge yourself. Classics like Chasey get all of you moving and is great for their development. I've taken things further and built us a basic balance beam for our backyard. Once that was there we had an apparatus that helped challenge us and could easily be tied into any sort of silly game we could think of.
Playgrounds… they're not just for children, but you get less weird looks when you go there with your kids.
Once you're there with them, don’t just sit idly by, JOIN IN!
When was the last time you did some monkey bars? Can you still do it?
Getting your kids involved in YOUR efforts to become a more healthy and balanced human being will do wonders toward setting them up to lead a healthy and movement rich life. Here we come to what I believe is the most important part.
You are the example that your children look up to. Set the standards that they can aspire toward, and leave the world with a better person.