It is not a secret that it can be difficult for parents of young children to find time for exercise. A new study shows that less than half of mothers meet the recommended amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (150 minutes per week). Specifically, mothers in the UK with young kids (four and under) only manage 18 minutes of exercise per day. This number goes up to 26 minutes once the children reach school age.
Exercise is not only important for physical health but can also have a positive impact on mental health and overall well-being. Fortunately, with the right strategies, parents of young kids can often find ways to incorporate more exercise into their busy lives.
Involve The Whole Family
Going for a daily walk or playing sports together in the backyard are great ways to be active while still spending quality time with children. This type of activity allows everyone to get some fresh air and benefit from moderate exercise without taking away too much time from other tasks.
Kids love to be active, and it is natural for them to want to copy their parents. If parents make exercise enjoyable and fun, children are more likely to join in willingly. Parents can also create a routine with their children that promotes physical activity, such as jumping rope or playing tag.
Being Active > Exercise
The focus does not always need to be on exercising but rather on staying active. Any time spent running around with children counts toward the physical activity recommendation. This means that instead of waiting until the children are asleep to work out, parents can opt to participate in play with their children. Lifting toddlers or going for a bike ride are all great ways to be active with young companions.
Break It Up In Small Chunks
Exercising does not need to be continuous to be effective. A few minutes of jumping jacks, squats, or other bodyweight exercises can be done between tasks. Five burpees here and there can add up and make a difference in endurance and heart health.
Walk or bike to do errands, or simply park away from the office to take a few extra steps in the day. Outdoor chores such as gardening or shoveling can also be great opportunities to get additional steps and physical activity without having to dedicate time to the gym.
Alternatively, multitasking during downtime, such as reading a book while on a stationary bike, might provide a mental break while still providing the body with exercise.
Many apps can help parents track their physical activity and provide reminders to stay active. There are even apps specifically designed for families to encourage physical activities together. Additionally, parental control devices can limit children’s time on screens or playing video games and ensure that kids get enough outdoor activity.
Prioritize Sleep And Nutrition
Getting enough sleep and eating nutritious food can go a long way toward maintaining energy levels during the day. Eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day can provide sustained energy so that parents feel more energized when it’s time to exercise.
Take Advantage Of Community Programs
If parents are still struggling to find the time or motivation to exercise, plenty of programs can help. For example, many gyms offer classes for both children and adults where parents can exercise with their kids. There are also online resources like YouTube videos or apps that provide various workouts parents can do with their children.
How Employers Can Help
Employers can facilitate this process by providing a flexible schedule where parents can take a few minutes out of their workday to connect and play with their children. Walking has also been shown to increase creative output by 60%, so these small breaks will improve their work instead of being a distraction.
Employers can also provide on-site gyms or partner with local fitness groups to offer classes to employees so that parents have more options to choose from. This can help employees stay healthy and active while spending time with their children.