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The Parent Trap: Fitting in Time for Fitness

By Denise Michelle Nix
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When most people think "exercise," they picture themselves spending an hour hitting P90X® or taking a long run on the beach. Busy parents, with schedules crammed full of carpooling, cooking and, often, work outside the home, find they can't even think of exercise seriously, let alone do it. Sure, once the kids are a little older or maybe on the weekend, but now? Today?

Mother and Daughter

Yes, today. Ideally, you'll make that time for yourself, but when it falls through the cracks, fitness and health experts agree that fitting fitness into parenting just takes a little creativity. "The hard part is parents really have to build the time in," said Eric Thompson, senior director of communications and marketing for the American Heart Association. "Being fit is all about habits—habits you form when you're younger that carry you through life."

However, experts agree, it's never too late to start those healthy habits. Here are ten ways busy parents can fit a little extra fitness into their lives:

Chores

You've gotta cook. You've gotta clean. There are ways to squeeze in some love for your body, while doing those things you love to hate.

  1. Woman in Ballet Outfit Sweeping FloorAnybody can just push a vacuum around, but then that person's not getting the full benefits of this otherwise rueful activity. Instead, use deep knee bends while pushing the vacuum out, being sure to tighten and hold the abdominal muscles and buttocks, keeping your back straight. Be sure to switch the lunging leg every few pushes.

  2. How many hours a day does a parent spend standing before a sink of dirty dishes? Make better use of that time by working out your legs with side leg lifts. Begin on two feet, then lift one leg slowly out to the side until it reaches about a 45-degree angle. Hold it there for 5 seconds, using the thigh muscle to keep it aloft. Switch to the other foot. Repeat each leg 10 times.

  3. Young children means lots and lots of toys. Of course, we want them to clean up after themselves, but we know who really does most of the picking up. Carry a laundry basket or satchel around and bend both knees deep beside each toy to pick up. While squatting, keep your back straight and tighten your abs. Walking and squatting to each toy can quickly translate into dozens of toning squats.

  4. Finding workout tools in the kitchen is just as easy as finding cooking gadgets. Next time you find yourself still before a boiling pot of macaroni and cheese, grab a couple of cans from the pantry and do bicep curls. Grasping the can, leave your elbows still and bent at your side. Keep tension in your upper arm as you curl the can up. Repeat 10 curls on each arm.

With the kids

What does any kid want more than their parents' attention? Here are some ways to stay involved with your kids, get some exercise, and have some fun!

  1. Mother and Daughter ExercisingThere are some obvious things we can do with our children that are both healthy and fun; it's just we sometimes forget or, really, are just too lazy. Walking is often overlooked as an easy and convenient way to exercise, as we're all so quick to jump in our cars for every little errand. It may take more time to walk to the store, but the benefits are worth it. And what better way to burn some extra kid energy? Better yet, have your kids ride their bikes, scooters, or skateboards—and try to keep up!

  2. Everyone encourages their kids to get involved in team sports like soccer or baseball . . . but who says they should be the only ones exercising? While your kids are at practice, bring your iPod® and take laps around the field (just be sure to keep an eye on them and offer encouragement!). Not all sports need to be organized. Next time your kids are vying for some parent time, take them outside for a vigorous game of tag or soccer yourself.

  3. Don't use dreary weather as an excuse to keep you from moving about; there's plenty to do inside with your kid. Turn on the music and dance! Need some inspiration? Check out Shaun T's Fit Kids® Club or Get Real with Shaun T for families who like to groove. Also, Tony Horton's Tony & the Kids! DVD is a fun and wacky way for the whole family to get fit.

Downtime

The long day of trudging through the grind is over, and who wouldn't be tempted to sink into a comfy couch, remote in hand, and just laze away into the night? But remember that every few minutes of exercise counts, so, sure, take a load off here and there to regroup. Just be sure to take breaks and get moving.

  1. Yoga Booty BalletCommercial breaks generally last about 2 minutes. Figuring there are five commercials in any given 1-hour show, that's 10 minutes of movement you can sneak in right there. Crunches, push-ups, and jumping jacks are classic exercises you can do just about anywhere at any time. And if you're watching back-to-back shows, squeeze in a 10-Minute Trainer® session during the break. But to make sure you don't miss one thrilling minute of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, warm up during the first show's commercial break and cool down during the second show.

  2. Yoga can be an excellent source of exercise, but it's also a great way to relax. And it just feels good to get those kinks out. If you don't know where to start, take a look at Yoga Booty Ballet for yoga workouts to awaken your mind and your body to the possibilities.

  3. There is no bigger time waster than waiting for a kid to brush his teeth or put on her pajamas. Use that time wisely. Instead of hanging around the bathroom sink listlessly, grasp on with your hands for some slow, deep squats. Work your abdomen at the same time by keeping those muscles tight. Remember to keep your back straight. Repeat 10 times.

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