Not only is motherhood one of the toughest jobs in the world, it’s also one of the busiest. Between rushing to various activities, preparing healthy meals, tending to homework and bedtime, and being the supportive and caring mother that you want to be, it can be hard to find time to fit in exercise.
You’re probably already familiar with many benefits of exercise (I mention several in this post). However, did you know that exercise can help your kids perform better in school? A recent study cited in a Runner’s World article shows that for the hardest recall tests, kids who scored higher on fitness also scored higher on memory tests. Active, healthy, fit kids can also reap benefits in terms of mental abilities!
So now that you’re ready to get moving, how do you actually make it work? I truly believe that the most important thing you can do to set your child up for exercise success is to have the right attitude: show them that exercise is important to you, show them that you make adjustments to your schedule to prioritize your health, and show them that exercise is fun. Have you ever wondered why so many people grow up hating running? Because it is used as “punishment” in other sports! The same mentality applies to you – if your kids see you complaining about exercise, dreading exercise, or avoiding exercise, they’ll be less likely to want to make it a part of their own lives.
Here are my top tips for staying fit with your kids:
- Take a walk/ jog/ bike ride with your kids. Most recommendations start at age 5 for both running and biking for kids (younger kids can ride a tricycle or a bike with training wheels). The Road Runner’s Club of America says that kids 5-8 years old can safely run/ walk shorter distances (just let them be the judge of their exertion, and don’t push them too hard!), kids 8-12 should keep their regular runs to about 5K distance, and kids 13-15 can aim for up to a half marathon.
- Have your kids count your reps if you’re doing a repetition-based workout (like lifting weights, or doing body weight exercises like squats, push-ups, jumping jacks, etc.). This is a great way to involve your kids, keep them occupied, and help them see the fun in working out.
- Set goals for them as you’re setting goals for yourself. Are you training for a marathon? Why not use this tracking page from Marathon Kids (see p. 25 of the pdf) and mark your child off each time he/ she completes 1/4 of a mile, so that he/ she can “run a marathon” with you? Are you trying to work up to 25 burpees? Why not see if your child can do 25 jumping jacks? If your child feels like he/ she is accomplishing something too, he/ she will be more likely to enjoy the workout.
- Dance, cardio/ aerobics, stretching, or yoga exercise videos. I know that for moms, it can be impossible to even get out of the house to get your workout in, but I’ve heard both Marathon Training Academy and Jillian Michaels (two of my favorite podcasters) recommend doing workout videos with your kids in the room. Allow them to participate to make it a family affair – most kids should be allowed to do any exercise they feel capable of (as long as they are only using their body weight and not using weights or equipment). Just let them be the guide of their own exertion.
- Make it into a game. Try to make your workout fun, and create a “game” of it for your kids. Here’s a fun workout with playing cards that I made up for you to do with your kids. Or, so something as simple as playing hide and seek – but the “hider” and the “seeker” have to be on different floors, to force you to use the stairs.
- Be realistic. Taking care of your kids is hard work! In most circumstances, expecting to do a 2-hour workout every single day, then take a leisurely shower, make a gourmet recovery meal, and enjoy a 3-hour nap is just not possible! Be proud of yourself for whatever you can fit in, and give yourself a pat on the back for setting your kids up for success in their exercise futures.
- Be efficient. I have spoken a lot about the benefits of high intensity interval training, and it’s a perfect way for busy moms to cram a lot of workout benefit into a little bit of time. So if you choose not to work out with your kids, check out this Shape article on Tabata for moms, my post on home/ hotel room workouts here, or my Pinterest workout board for more ideas.
**Please note that, although I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Health Coach,and Running Coach, I am not a doctor or trainer, and this is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.**