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Fitness: Staying Active When You Have Young Children

Overview

Even people who are very determined to keep up their healthy habits can lose them after they have children. Young children can demand so much of your time that you barely have time to breathe, let alone be physically active. Having a young child doesn't leave you much time for yourself. Here are some tips for staying active.

  • Share babysitting duties so you get some time for yourself.

    Share with your spouse, another relative, or a neighbor. While they watch your child, you can get some exercise. Then you can return the favor.

  • Get your exercise in small chunks.

    Three 10-minute periods of activity spread throughout the day are just as good as one 30-minute period. Find the time that works best for you and your family.

  • If you work outside the home, exercise at work or on the way to or from work.

How can you fit physical activity into your schedule?

When your child is asleep

Children take up a lot of your time. But there are ways you can still fit activity into your schedule. A good time to be active is when your child is asleep.

  • Use an exercise machine.

    If you can afford to buy a treadmill or an exercise bike, you can listen to a podcast, watch an online video, or read while you exercise. This can make the time go faster.

  • Try free or low-cost exercises.

    If exercise equipment isn't in your budget, try an online video. Or you can use an exercise app for your smartphone. You can try to jump rope, do stretching exercises, or do yoga. Use cans of food as hand weights. Or try exercising with rubber tubing or resistance bands.

  • Do your chores.

    Certain chores—like washing windows or floors—count as moderate activity. That's because they raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster. For chores that don't raise your heart rate, like running the vacuum or dusting, turn on some music and dance while you do them.

When your child is awake

There are ways you can be physically active while your child is awake. It may be easier if you break your exercise into little chunks of time. The key is to think of ways to make your child part of that activity.

  • Be active at home.
    • Do stomach crunches with your baby on your belly or your thighs. Or lift your baby up and down as you lie on your back. You can find lots of other exercises like this online.
    • Turn up the music, and dance around the house. Children love to dance and will happily join you.
    • Take your children outside while you garden. Use a stroller or playpen if you need to.
  • Be active in the neighborhood.
    • Go for a walk. Get a backpack or stroller so your very young child can go with you on walks. Check online for stroller-friendly fitness or walking programs in your area. Look for websites that help parents find or start local stroller-pushing groups or running or walking groups.
    • Jog alongside your child while your child rides a bike around the neighborhood.
    • If it's in your budget, get a trailer for your bicycle so that you can take your child (toddler age or older) with you on bike rides. Look carefully into the safety features of bike trailers before you buy. Babies aren't strong enough to handle the bumpy ride in a bike trailer. When children are old enough to run or climb, which may not be until about age 2, they are probably strong enough to ride in a bike trailer. Children in bike trailers should wear helmets.
  • Be active at the park or playground.
    • Instead of sitting on the park bench while your children play, walk or run laps around the play area. You can still keep an eye on the kids.
    • Join your child on the playground. Swinging from the monkey bars is great for shoulders and upper body strength.
    • If your child plays on a soccer or T-ball team, walk or run laps around the field during practice and during games. If you need to be close enough to cheer, pace up and down the sidelines.
    • Play games like tag, hide and seek, and catch with your kids.
  • Be active at the gym or community center.
    • Join an exercise or swim class for parents and kids.
    • Find a gym or center that has child care so that you can exercise on your own.

Credits

Current as of: January 26, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics

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