How Parents Can Find Exercise Time

Time to work out - father and son exercise together
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It's hard to think about adding time to work out to your crazy busy schedule—I know! I'm a parent too. But I promise you can fit in exercise if you change the way you look at it. It's true, hitting the gym or even taking a yoga class can easily be a two-hour event. It's not easy to find a hole that big in your daily schedule, especially if you have a paying job in addition to your parenting job. Or if you have kids with busy schedules of their own. Or if you're doing everything solo. Or (likeliest of all) some combination of all of that.

Finding time to work out boils down to two pretty simple strategies: You either take the kids with you, or you look for ways to multitask and squeeze in mini-opportunities to exercise.

Bring Kids Along

Making workout time family time can really work—for all of you. Depending on your children's ages and abilities, you could: 

  • Join a gym with a childcare room, so your kids will be happily occupied while you're exercising. Or, flip the script and look for ways to work out during your kids' activities. If they have tennis lessons, can you walk or run near the courts? If they have a swim team at the community center, can you hit the weight room while they're in the pool?
  • Take a parent-child class such as karate or yoga. You get both fitness and together time, and kids usually love sharing an activity with mom or dad. Plus you can practice with each other outside of class time.
  • Modify your favorite workout so that your child can join in, or at least ride along. If you're a runner, for example, it's worth investing in a jogging stroller, scooter, or bike so your child can be with you.
  • Set up a babysitting/workout co-op with friends (like a private version of the gym's nursery). Meet at one family's home or at a playground, and swap workout time with kid-wrangling duties.

Grab Mini Fitness Opportunities

As a parent, you have to become a master at time management at multi-tasking. I mean, who knew you would need to breastfeed while tying someone's shoes, or cook dinner in less than 15 minutes while also supervising homework? You can apply these skills to schedule in exercise time too.

  • Try the 10-10-10 exercise plan: 10 minutes, 3 times a day. This is doable for stay-at-home parents, those with jobs outside the home, and those who work for pay from home too.
  • Walk or bike to work or school or when doing errands. If you use "active commuting" to get to school, your kids get extra exercise too. Win-win.
  • Remember the old stand-bys: Take the stairs instead of the elevator; park at the far end of the lot; and so on. Using a pedometer or other activity tracker might help you seek out and take advantage of these kinds of opportunities.
  • They play, you sweat: Walk briskly around the playground's perimeter while your kids hang out in the middle, or do lunges and squats while refereeing in the family room or backyard.
  • Multitask. Do crunches, planks, or push-ups while you watch TV (or, as I used to, while you're stuck in a dark room with a kid who won't fall asleep without you nearby).
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