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Simply Fit, by Cindy Haskin-Popp, will help you make physical activity a part of everyday life. The health benefits of regular exercise and overall daily physical activity will be discussed. Fun, practical and easy-to-follow tips on an exercise program will be shared, as will the most current research. Fitness tips for families and seniors, on fitness centers and on buying proper and affordable equipment will be regularly given. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fitting In Exercise When You Are Caring For Children

Child-rearing is rewarding, but demanding - leaving little time for you to do anything else, especially exercise. I agree that finding the time, and the energy, for a workout under these circumstances is far from easy, but it can be done. As a parent, I have had to be very creative to remain physically active with kids underfoot, particularly during the newborn through kindergarten years. In addition to reducing your risk for chronic disease, being physically fit while caring for children provides you with many health benefits. These include:
  • Increased stamina
  • Weight management, particularly for post-partum mothers
  • Reduces post-partum depression
  • Stress management/emotional outlet
  • Increases muscular strength and endurance
Exercise Options:
  • Join a fitness facility that offers childcare services while you exercise. This option not only provides you with access to exercise equipment and your choice of fitness classes, but can provide you with an hour or so of much needed "me time." Furthermore, working out at a gym renders a social outlet as you interact with staff and other gym members.
  • Join or create your own parent fitness group/circle. Many cities, fitness facilities, and even fitness stores offer exercise programs specifically for parents of young children. The range of formality of these groups can vary greatly with something as laid back as a group of friends going for daily walks with their kids in strollers to an instructor led "mommy and me" class.
  • Exercise DVDs/video tapes. A great option for parents who cannot, or choose not to, spend money on a gym membership or a"mommy and me" exercise class. An advantage of using exercise media for your workout is that it gives you the flexibility to "sneak" in activity while your child naps or is preoccupied with another activity. Renting from your local library will allow you to discover which DVD/tape gives you the best workout. Then, you can buy the one you like from the store.
  • Hire a sitter. Make "date night" a fitness adventure. Instead of going to a dinner and a movie, plan a long walk in the park.
  • Exchange childcare. Tell a family member, friend or neighbor with kids that you will watch their children while they exercise if they will do the same for you.
  • Alternate exercise days with your significant other. I have a friend who would alternate days of exercise with her husband. While one went out for a run, the other would stay home with the baby. This agreement guaranteed each of them 3-4 days of exercise per week.
  • Make exercise part of playtime with the kids. For example, during the winter months, I would bundle up my young children, put them in a sled, and walk the perimeter of my backyard while towing them behind me. To keep their interest, I would have them count how many steps it took me to walk one lap or count how many seconds it took for us to reach the opposite side of the yard. Afterwards, we would all go inside and drink hot chocolate.
  • Make exercise time family time. During the warmer months you can go on family bike rides. The older kids can ride their bikes next to you and younger ones can ride in seats or carriages behind you. During winter months, consider family ski weekends or a day of ice skating at your local ice arena.
Achieving and maintaining physical fitness is sure to be a challenge when you have to care for young children. However, with a little research into programs that may be available to you in your community and a little creativity, it can be acquired. Don't get discouraged if your workouts are not as intense or as long as they were prior to children. What is important is that you get in as much as you can for what your circumstances allow. Eventually, the demands of child-rearing will lessen, increasing your opportunities for longer workout sessions.

Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.

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