Getting Enough Exercise with a Young Family
It's that time of year when we all (re)commit to our health and fitness. THIS is the year! Well if you've got a young family, you've got more work ahead than others to achieve your goals. However, if you’ve got a young family, you've also got more motivation AND in some ways, more opportunities to be healthy! Don’t believe me? Here are some tips on making exercise achievable with a young family.
The biggest thing to realise is that an active life can count as getting enough exercise. Let me repeat that: any physical activity is exercise, not just workouts. You need about thirty minutes of exercise (getting a bit puffed) a few times a week. What that means is we can take the pressure off - any sort of activity where we get a bit puffed and sweaty counts, not just workouts or a class you pay for or going to the gym. Here are some ways to fit this type of activity into your life.
Take your kids for a walk. You can use a pram or a carrier for younger ones, but if your kid is old enough to walk by himself, then let him. It's great exercise for them too! Walk around the block, go hunting for birds, lizards or dandelions. See if you can collect some different nature items to take home to play with or use in craft (e.g. pine cones, sticks, flowers, seed pods, shells). I know I'm not the only one who avoids hills, but seriously, walk up the hills where possible (just remind yourself it's an easy alternative to doing a gym workout). If you aren't keen on just going for a walk (or don't have time), fit it into your current lifestyle - walk to places you regularly go to (instead of driving all the way) or park a few blocks away. Allow time for your kids to lag and explore and complain (haha) until they get used to it!
Play with your kids in the park. Throw or kick a ball together. Take a skipping rope or hula hoop. Run around and play tag, hide and seek, or 'stuck in the mud' etc. Race each other. The idea is to be running and moving around - whatever that looks like! Don't sit on the bench and watch.
Housework. Seriously, it can count. If you do your housework in a good half to one house stint - vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, dusting etc - getting up and down and moving around, well that's half an hour of exercise.
Gardening. Get outside (include the kids) and do some weeding, pruning, watering etc. Lifting, getting up and down frequently, carrying a watering can or bag of soil all help us to use muscles.
Have someone look after your kids at a scheduled time during the week. Maybe this is just daycare, but maybe you can get a friend or family member, or another mama (take turns), to watch your kids while you go for a run or to a class. If you schedule it in, you'll actually do it.
Ask a friend to come with you. Instead of meeting mums in cafes or just getting the babies out on a picnic blanket, strap them into the strollers instead and walk somewhere nice together.
Dance in the loungeroom. In my home we do this most days! Put some fun music on that your babies/toddlers/kids love, and dance around with them. It's easy and fun and definitely counts as active! Who needs Zumba when you've got the Wiggles?
Take advantage of incidental activity in your life - walking up stairs instead of taking the lift, park down the road instead of trying to get the closest park to the entrance, walk down town instead of driving, join in with your kids instead of watching from the sideline, hang washing outside instead of using a dryer, etc.
When you get your kids outside being active to tire them out, join in. Jumping on trampolines, skipping ropes, scooters at the park, bike riding, hop scotch, hula hoop, tree climbing, and a million other typical kids' activities are great ways for us to get a bit of extra activity into our days.
Make a special family tradition of going hiking, exploring, bike riding, playing on the beach or kicking a ball at the local park on weekends or once a month (whatever is realistic). Try to have family fun that centres around being active outdoors.
What’s Your Motivation?
Let's use this to our benefit. Make a list of your motivations and stick it somewhere you'll see it every day. Here are some examples:
I am my baby's/kid's role model. They will copy what I do, not what I say I do.
I can help my kid avoid all the self-esteem issues I've had, if I help them be healthy now.
I want to look back at photos and be proud.
I want to be around as long as possible to see my children and grandchildren grow up. I want to be in good health all my life.
I want to make memories and have fun with my kids, not just watch from the sideline.
This is the youngest I will ever be, I want to make the most of it.
…What else motivates you?
The thing I really want mums to know is that we really do need to take care of our health and fitness levels BUT that doesn't mean we have to go to the gym or do exercise DVDs or have a bikini body. It just means we need to be active. The thing about having a young family is that it can be really difficult to get time alone to exercise, and it can also be too costly to pay for a class or membership somewhere. It can also be hard to find time in general. The key to staying fit and active is to aim to have an active life, not a life of exercise. And the great news is, we really get more opportunities to get outside and play and be active now that we've got children in our lives.
Now is the time to really commit to our health, and make it happen.