For busy parents, getting any exercise at all can seem like an impossibility. With the hectic, crowded schedule of a typical parent, working out may simply not be a top priority. But, exercise is vital to good health. A habit of regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and protect from many forms of disease. Plus, finding the time for regular exercise is often not quite as difficult as it might seem. Here are five ways busy parents can work out more often.
- Exercise — or play — with the kids. Children love to move — and, while they may not think of it in such terms, many kinds of play are also a form of exercise (just think of tag). This means that children’s games offer an opportunity for adults to get some exercise while spending quality time with their kids. Encouraging family exercise together is another smart approach. Bike rides, taking a walk or a hike, going for a swim, or playing a family game of soccer or basketball are all good ideas. Just as with parents, children who get plenty of exercise will be in better health.
- Schedule it. For many busy parents, each day is lived according to a schedule. This means that if something — such as a workout — isn’t on the schedule, it probably isn’t going to happen. The obvious solution is to carve out the time for exercise in the daily or weekly calendar beforehand. If an activity already has a place in the schedule, actually completing that activity will be much easier.
- Opt for efficient workouts. Some forms of exercise offer more for the time invested than others. An intense, but a relatively brief workout is ideal for someone with a hectic schedule. One of the best options is high-intensity interval training (or HIIT). These workouts alternate periods of intense all-out effort with cool-down periods. HIIT exercises quickly shift the cardiovascular system into high gear, while also speeding up the metabolism. Another possibility is simply completing a workout in less time; for example, running a mile at a faster pace.
- Remember that any amount of exercise is worthwhile. Exercise doesn’t have to come in hour-long chunks. In fact, even five or ten minutes periods can still be extremely valuable. For a busy parent, finding the opportunity to exercise during such short time periods may be more practical. Plus, ten minutes here or there can actually really add up. Many simple exercises can easily be fit into a few spare moments. Basic bodyweight moves like squats, jumping jacks, or planks can all fit the bill.
- Set goals. Setting goals is a crucial aspect of virtually any attempt at self-improvement. This is particularly true when it comes to something, like exercise, that may not be especially enjoyable. Having a goal to strive for will stoke the fires of motivation and reinforce self-discipline. A good goal can assume many different forms, from dropping a certain number of pounds, to running a mile in a specific time, or simply consistently working out every day. Having both long- and short-term goals is also smart — one to encourage effort on a daily basis, the other to provide big-picture motivation.
It might sound strange, but getting enough exercise is actually an important part of being a parent. That’s because to be a great parent, good health is required. Since taking care of kids requires a lot physically, someone who is in bad shape will have a tough time keeping up. Setting a good example is also extremely important. Kids learn an enormous amount from how their parents behave, which means a parent who regularly works out is helping to encourage a valuable habit in their children. Fortunately, as the tips above show, busy parents are certainly capable of getting enough exercise.