Any parent knows that when you have a young family, it can be almost impossible to squeeze in a regular exercise routine.
Between the demands of caring for your child, the school run, kids’ activities and all your other commitments at work or home, it’s no surprise that most days leave little time for your own needs.
This calls for solutions to suit both you and your busy family life! There are lots of ways to exercise and parent at the same time by choosing activities that appeal to adults and kids.
We list some fun ideas in our article that are suitable for most families, as well as giving you the low-down on why exercise is so important for you as a parent and how you can find the time to set up a regular routine.
Once you’ve read our article, both you and your kids will be well and truly ready for action!
Why is exercise important when you’re a parent?
Before we go on to look at strategies and activities, it’s good to understand the value of exercising when you’re a parent.
If you exercise with your children from an early age, you will be helping to lay the foundations of a healthy lifestyle. This will pay dividends throughout your child’s life.
Remember that getting them into good habits early on is infinitely easier than trying to persuade them to take up exercise when they’re older and more argumentative too!
Exercise is one of the gifts you can give your children. It will strengthen their muscles and bones, guard against obesity and also enhance their brain development.
And if you’re hoping that your child will excel in a competitive sport, you will need to get them started as early as you can so they have maximum chance of developing their skills.
Of course, exercise is important for parents too. If you have recently given birth, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But gentle activities like walking, yoga or pilates will help restore muscle strength, especially in the abdominal area.
It will also release endorphins, the hormones that lift your mood. This is an effective natural remedy for the loneliness and isolation that can sometimes follow a major life event like having a baby.
It’s also really important for all of us to practise regular weight-bearing exercise as we progress in life. Activities such as walking, running and dancing will help keep your bones strong and healthy and guard against conditions such as osteoporosis, where bones become weak and break easily.
And we know how good exercise is for general health and wellbeing, protecting against disease and obesity as well as helping with depression and other emotional issues.
How can I get my family into an exercise routine?
Persuading all the family to take part in an exercise routine is easier said than done. Take a look at our tips for getting your kids enthused about exercising with you, whether that’s at home or while you’re out in the fresh air:
- Prioritise family exercise time: Show how important exercise is by ringfencing time for it and sticking to it. This will make kids understand that exercise is an essential part of the family routine, just like sitting down for dinner. It will also help you to exercise if you’re finding it hard to get motivated.
- Goals and rewards: Kids respond well when they have a clear goal in mind and a reward once they have accomplished it. The key is to think small and manageable, so your goals could be something like taking a walk every day, achieving a certain number of jumping jacks or coming up with a new way to exercise. Track their progress on a reward chart and offer them a healthy treat once they’ve hit their objective.
- Creativity and variety: Make exercise fun for you and your children. Mix up your activities so you’re not doing the same thing every session. Ask your kids to choose what type of exercise they want to do. Or choose random activities by writing out ideas on slips of paper and drawing them out of a jar.
- Make the most of free resources: There are heaps of free resources on and offline. Search YouTube for free exercise videos that will appeal to both you and your kids, or make the most of your local park or outdoor beauty spots, such as the beach or national parks and reserves, to combine family exercise with fresh air.
Exercise for kids and parents
If you’re struggling to find time away from your child to work out, you can try some of these ideas for exercise for kids and parents:
- Walking: Ditch the car and walk instead. While the pace may be slow with young children, you will still both benefit from a gentle aerobic workout. If you’re walking and pushing a pram or stroller as well, then you’ll build up your strength effortlessly.
- Parent and baby exercise classes: Search your local area for exercise classes specially designed for parents and babies. These can range from gentle yoga through to a rigorous workout using your child’s pram or stroller as a prop.
- Hula hooping: It’s impossible not to smile when you’re hula hooping with your kid! It’s also a great way to tone your arms and abdominal muscles, as well as burn calories. You can even try weighted hoops for a more rigorous workout.
- Dancing: Exercise for kids with music like dancing will energise you and them and provide a fantastic whole-body workout. You don’t need any special equipment or space, just slip on tees and leggings so you’re comfy, put your favourite music on and move to the rhythm.
- Water games: Here’s another activity that will be sure to put a smile on your face and get you moving fast: your children running after you with water guns!
- Swimming: Swimming is the perfect exercise to take with kids. It’s a great all-rounder, toning up your whole body, and provides aerobic exercise too. Most kids love splashing around in a pool, so you won’t have any difficulty in getting them to join in.
- Exercise videos: If you’re searching exercise ideas for kids at home, a free exercise video is your answer, especially if the weather is stopping you from enjoying exercise outdoors. You’ll find videos for every type of activity on YouTube, the majority of which are free to watch.
- Build an obstacle course: You can build an obstacle course with your child either indoors or outdoors. And half the fun will be in finding the materials, designing the course and putting it together! It’s a great way to spend time being creative with your kids and getting a good workout at the same time.
- Trampolining: Setting up a trampoline in your garden is a surefire way to get all the family enthused about exercise. In fact, it’s exercise disguised as fun, so you’ll have no trouble in persuading your kids to get on and do some serious bouncing with you.
Making exercise fun
Being a parent can be exhausting and challenging, so all the more reason to set up an exercise routine that works for you and your family life.
As you can see from our ideas, it certainly doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, you and your kids will positively look forward to exercise time when you choose some of the fun activities from our list.
Making exercise fun is the easiest way to get the activity you need when you’re a parent. And the key to long-term success is to make your routine consistent so that physical activity becomes a way of life for you and your family.
You’ll be rewarded by getting fitter and more energised and passing on the benefits to your children to give them the best possible start in life.